The versatile Abdul-Walid of Acerbia has posted two translations from the Yoruba at oncaesura. As long-time readers may remember, I have a special fondness for Yoruba folk poetry and Ifa divination hymns, especially as translated by Ulli Beier in a couple of long out-of-print volumes. Though inevitably much of the word-play and musical effects of the originals don’t come through in translation, the vivid imagery and often vatic tone still make for arresting poems in English.
Abdul-Walid translates a pair of traditional incantations (ofo) by an herbalist (onisegun), along with a simplified transcription that allows one to appreciate some of the sounds of the original without the usual mess of diacritical marks to indicate the tones of the syllables. The first is An incantation to tranquilize the afflicted; the second (in order of performance) is An incantation to calm the afflicted:
Calm, calm, soft and calm,
soft and calm is the snail,
gentle is the leaf’s fall
from the tree.
In calmness the springbok
births its young in the forest.
Softness is the mud’s by the riverside,
gentleness seeks out the banana tree.
May softness fall upon you,
may softness fall upon you.
The ikupero leaf whispers:
may your body be untied,
may rest befall you
until all is calm.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll lie down for a brief nap…