Song of a Mother to Her First-Born

Translations From Poems of the Didinga and Lango Tribes


Speak to me, child of my heart.
Speak to me with tour eyes, your round laughing eyes,
Wet and shining as Lupeyo's bull-calf.

Speak to me little one,
Clutching my breast with your hand,
So strong and firm for all its littleness.
It will be the hand of a warrior, my son,
A hand that will gladden your father.
See how eagerly it fastens on me:
It thinks already of a spear.
O son, you will have a warrior's name and be a leader of men.
And your sons, and your sons' sons, will remember you long after
you have slipped into darkness.
But I, I shall always remember your hand clutching me so.
I shall remember how you lay in my arms,
And looked at me so, and so,
And how your tiny hands played with my bosom.
And when they name you great warrior, then will my eyes be wet
with remembering.

O my child, now indeed I am happy.
Now indeed I am a wife-
No more a bride, but a Mother-of-one.
Be splendid and magnificent, child of desire.
Be proud as I am proud.
Be happy as I am happy.
Be loved as now I am loved.
Child, child, child, love I have had from my man.
But now, only now, have I the fullness of love.
Now, only now, am I his wife and the mother of his first-born.
His soul is safe in your keeping, my child, and it was I, I, I who have made you.

Therefore am I loved.
Therefore am I happy.
Therefore am I a wife.
Therefore have I great honor.

You will tend his shrine when he is gone.
With sacrifice and oblation you will recall his name year by year.
He will live in your prayers, my child,
And there will be no more death for him, but everlasting life springing from your loins.
You are his shield and his spear, his hope and redemption from the dead.
Through you he will be reborn, as the saplings in the Spring.
And I, I am the mother of his first-born.
Sleep, child of beauty and courage and fulfillment, sleep.
I am content.

(translated by John H. Driberg, in Initiation (Translations From Poems of the Didinga and Lango Tribes), Golden Cockerel Press edition. Cranbury, New Jersey: A. S. Barnes and Co., Inc.)

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