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p. 27


Arába continues:
Oíbo, I will tell and chronicle
A second chapter from the histories
The fable
of Earth,
Water and
Bequeathed from other times. . . A tale is told
How God in the Beginning sent three sons
Into the World—Earth, Water and the Forest—
With one and twenty gifts for Earth and men
That are the sons of Earth; and all save one
The Forest and the Rivers stole; and how
God promised to his first-born, Earth, that men
Should win the twenty gifts again by virtue
Of that last one, Good Humour. And this is true:
For in those years when Ógun and the Gods
Made known their handicrafts men learned to seek
Thatch, food and wine in Forest and in River
Odúwa and
Patiently. So Man prevailed; but in those days
Came strife and turmoil to the Gods—for still
For jealousy and pride Odúwa held
The bag Arámfè gave to Great Orísha.
Often Orísha made entreaty; oft
A suppliant came before his brother—in vain;
Till once when Odudúwa sat with Ógun
p. 28 In that same palace where the Órní reigns,
The sound of drums was heard and Great Orísha
Approached with skilled Obálufon, and said:
"The time has come to teach Arámfè's arts
"To men. Give back the bag (for it is mine!)
That I may do our Father's bidding. Else,
Have a care, is it not told how caution slept
In the still woods when the proud leopard fell,
Lured on by silence, 'neath the monster's foot?"1
Then was Odúwa angered exceedingly:
"Am I not king? Did not Arámfè make
Me lord of Gods and men? Begone! Who speaks
Unseemly words before the king has packed
His load."2
Orísha and Odúwa called
brings war
to Ífè.
To arms their followings of Gods and men,
And on that day the first of wars began
In Ífè and the Forest. Such was the fall
Of the Gods from paths divine, and such for men
The woe that Odudúwa's theft prepared;
But little the Gods recked of their deep guilt
p. 29 Till darkness fell and all was quiet—for then
Returned the memory of Calm, their heritage,
Of Heaven born and destined for the World;
Gloom, too, with the still night came down: a sense
Of impious wrong, ungodly sin, weighed down
Warriors aweary, and all was changed. Around,
Dead, dead the Forest seemed, its boughs unstirred;
Dead too, amidst its strangling, knotted growth
The stifled air—while on that hush, the storm's
tries to
stop it;
Mute herald, came the distant thundrous voice
Of Old Arámfè as he mused: "In vain
Into the Waste beneath I sent my sons—
The children of my happy vales—to make
A World of mirth: for desolation holds
The homes of Ífè, and women with their babes
Are outcast in the naked woods." But when
The whirling clouds were wheeling in the sky
And the great trees were smitten by the wind,
Thundrous Arámfè in his ire rebuked
His erring sons: "At my command you came
To darkness, where the Evil of the Void—
Insentient Violence—had made its home,
To shape in the Abyss a World of joy
p. 30 And lead Creation in the ways of Heaven.
How, then, this brawling? Did the Void's black soul
Outmatch you, or possess your hearts to come
Again into its own? For Man's misfortune
I grieve; but you have borne them on the tide
Of your wrong-doing, and your punishment
Is theirs to share. For now my thunderbolts
I hurl, with deluges upon the land—
To fill the marshes and lagoons, and stay
For aye your impious war."
but fails. Dawn came; the storm
Was gone, and Old Arámfè in his grief
Departed on black clouds. But still the wrath,
But still the anger of his sons endured,
And in the dripping forests and the marshes
The rebel Gods fought on—while in the clouds
Afar Arámfè reasoned with himself:
"I spoke in thunders, and my deluge filled
The marshes that Ojúmu dried;—but still
They fight. Punish, I may—but what can I
Achieve? In Heaven omnipotent: but here—?
What means it? I cannot tell. . . In the Unknown,
Beyond the sky where I have set the Sun,
p. 31 Is He-Who-Speaks-Not: He knows all. Can this
Be Truth: Amidst the unnatural strife of brothers
The World was weaned: by strife must it endure—?"
Oíbo, how the first of wars began,
And Old Arámfè sought to stay the flow
Of blood—your pen has written; but of the days,
The weary days of all that war, what tongue
Can tell? 'Tis said the anger of the Gods
Endured two hundred years: we know the priest
Osányi made strange amulets for all
The mortal soldiers of the Gods—one charm
Could turn a spear aside, a second robbed
The wounding sword of all its sting, another
Made one so terrible that a full score
Must flee—but not one word of the great deeds,
Of hopes and fears, of imminent defeat
Or victory snatched away is handed down:
No legend has defied, no voice called through
The dimness and the baffling years.
But when
An end was come to the ill days foreknown
To Him-Who-Speaks-Not, remembrance of the calm
Of Heaven stole upon the sleepless Gods—
p. 32 For while the Moon lay soft with all her spell
On Ífè of the many battles; while
With sorrowful reproach the wise trees stood
And gazed upon the Gods who made the soil
The voices of the Forest crooned their dreams
Of peace: "Sleep, sleep" all weary Nature craved,
And "Sleep" the slumbrous reed-folk urged, and 'twixt
The shadow and the silver'd leaf, for sleep
Ógun asks
Odúwa to
give back
the bag to
The drowsing breezes yearned. . . . And with the dawn
Ógun, the warrior, with his comrades stood
Before the king, and thus he spoke: "Odúwa,
We weary of the battle, and its agony
Weighs heavy on our people. Have you forgot
The careless hours of Old Arámfè's realm?
What means this war, this empty war between
One mother's sons? Orísha willed it so,
You say. . . 'Twas said of old 'Who has no house
Will buy no broom',1 Why then did Great Orísha
Bring plagues on those he made in love? In Heaven
Afar Arámfè gave to you the empire,
p. 33 And to Orísha knowledge of the ways
Of mysteries and hidden things. The bag
You seized; but not its clue—the skill, the wisdom
Of Great Orísha which alone could wake
The sleeping lore. . . The nations of the World
Are yours: give back the bag, and Great Orísha
Will trouble us no more." But neither Ógun
Nor the soft voices of the night could loose
Odúwa from the thrall of envy: the rule
Of men and empire were of no account
When the hot thought of Old Arámfè's lore
Roused his black ire anew. The bag he held;
But all the faithless years had not revealed
Its promised treasures. Bitterly he answered:
"These many years my brother has made war
Upon his king; while for the crown, its power
And greatness, I have wrought unceasing. To-day
My son—hope of my cause, my cause itself—
Wearies of war, and joins my enemies.
Weak son, the sceptre you were born to hold
And hand down strengthened to a line of kings
Could not uphold your will and be your spur
Until the end. Is it not said, "Shall one
Priest bury, and anon his mate dig up
p. 34 The corpse?"1 No day's brief work have you undone,
But all my heart has longed for through a life
Of labour. So let it be: God of Soft Iron!
Upon your royal brow descends this day
The crown of a diminished chieftaincy,
With the sweet honours of a king in name—
For I go back to Old Arámfè's hills
and trans-
forms to
And the calm realm you prate of." Then Odudúwa
Transformed to stone and sank beneath the soil,
Bearing away the fateful bag.
taking the And thus,
bag with
Beneath, through all the ages of the World
A voiceless lore and arts which found no teacher
Have lain in bondage.



p. 28

1 cp. Yoruba threat "The Elephant has power to crush the Leopard, though he be silent." (Communicated by drum-beats, I think.)

2 Yoruba saying. The speaker is probably prepared to travel.

p. 32

1 Yoruba saying.

p. 34

1 Yoruba saying.