kagablog

October 3, 2007

S.E.K. MQHAYI – A CALL TO ARMS

Filed under: poetry — ABRAXAS @ 2:25 am

mqhayi2.jpg

When he said his farewell to the African volunteers who served in France during World War I, some of whom perished when the SS Mendi sank, S.E.K. Mqhayi said: (the English translation follows immediately after):

Hambani ke, bafondini, niy’ eFransi!
Nikhumbul’ indlala eniyishiy’ emakhaya.
Izihendo zOngendawo ze nizoyise,
Kuba nilapho nje namhla, nibingiwe;
Sinenz’ idini lesizwe sikaNtu.
Hambani, mathol’ eemaz’ ezimabele made;
Hambani, mathol’ oonyonga-nde kukudlelana
Hambani, kuba le nto thina sesiyibonile.
UThixo wakowethu seleyijikele ngaphambili.
Hambani ngemilenz’ engenakhinkqi;
Hambani ngeentliziyo ezingenadyudyu;
Ngomzimb’ okhaphu-khaphu, ngomzimb’ ongenantaka,
Nithi gxanya, gxanya, gxanya!
Nithi ngxi-ngxi, ngxi-ngxi!
Nithi ngxi-ngxi-ngxi-ngxilili!

And so leave our shores, my peers, for France!
Remind yourselves of the poverty you leave behind.
Defeat the temptations of the rootless Satan,
Because you are where you are today as our offering,
You go as the sacred sacrifice of the African nation.
And so forward, offspring of the cow of the long udder;
Forward, calves of teats lengthened by sharing
Advance, because the times decreed that this had to be.
The God of our forefathers has gone ahead of you.
March on, your legs free of cramps;
Move on, your hearts free of the fear of cowards;
With a light step, and bodies drilled for brave deeds,
Advance! Advance! Advance!
Left, right, left, right!
Left, left, left, halt!

More than 90 years ago, the poet laureate, S.E.K. Mqhayi, commanded that those who had the responsibility to fight for peace and freedom had to do so with hearts free of cowardice, ready to make the supreme sacrifice for the poor of our land and the assertion of the dignity of the African people, as true products of the African mother who had freely given her milk even to the motherless calf. This, surely, must be part of the heritage on which we raise our new nation that is striving to be born.

Thabo Mbeki

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