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War of the
to the arts
|Oíbo, graven on my memory|
Is the sad legend which my father told me
Of the Great Gods' departure. . . The years slid by
Unnoted while King Ógun2 reigned. The World
Was young: upon the craggy slopes the trees
Shot forth red buds, and ancient Ífè, gaunt
With suffering, dreamed again her early dreams.
Taught by the Gods, the folk began to learn
The arts of Heaven's peace anew; the drum
Returned to measures of the dance, and Great
Orísha saw the joy of life once more
In his creatures' eyes. Thus lived mankind among
|The Gods, and multiplied until the youth|
Of Ífè sought new homes and wider lands
In the vast Forest; and thus was born the first
Fair daughter of Odúwa's city. Men called
Her Úbo, and the leader took the name
Olúbo of Úbo with his chieftaincy.
|But to these colonists the Gods, their Fathers,|
Gave no good gifts: 'midst battles with the Wild,
'Mid struggles with the Forest the town grew-
While dull remembrance of unnatural wrongs
p. 41 Bred Man's first rebel thought against the Gods;
And when the time of festival was near,
Word came to Ífè that the folk of Úbo
Would bring no gifts, nor worship at the feet
Of Ógun. But the King scorned them, laughing: "Who lights
His lamp between the leopard's paws?"3
|The Chief||Years passed|
|In grieving while Olúbo sought the homes|
Of spirits of the Forest springs, laid gifts
At crossway shrines where childless women go,
Or wandered to drear coasts to share his wrongs
With Ocean chafing at his old restraint.
But rivers answered not, not brooks, nor Gods
Of crossway altars at the light of dawn;
And through the unceasing hissing of the foam
No voice of counsel came. . . With Autumn's fall
Olúbo came with gifts before the shrine
Of the grim Forest-God who hedged his land,
And prayed him to accept the corn he brought
And the fat beasts, nor seize his lands again.
And the God saw the oil, and smelled the blood
Of birds and cattle; and the longed-for voice
Came to Olúbo: "See with the rain I come|
Each year upon your fields with springing trees,
Rank-growing grass and vegetation wild:
Your work of yester-year is all undone
By my swift desolation. Be this your symbol:
Go thus against the Scornful Ones arrayed
|In Ífè was great joy: the last|
|Black thundercloud has passed; the maids were wed,|
And all men feasted on the sacred days
|Of Ógun and the Lord of Day—when sudden,|
From the still Forest o'er the walls there broke
Portents of moving trees and hurrying grass
On Ífè's stone-still revellers. (Hope perishes
In the dark hour a mother sees the dance
Of white-robed goblins1 of the midnight streets—
A glimpse, no more; and her sick child is lost).
Despair held rule: the new-wed wives were lone;
Their men were slaves of Úbo lords. The drum
Was silent, and laughter mute. About dull tasks
A listless people wandered; but not so
Mórimi—for she, assured of triumph, strode|
To the dim court of Ífa, and laid bare
Her gift. A vision flickered and was gone,
And the priest prophesied: "The bode is good.
As when a sick man lies beset by fiends1
I call not to the Gods for aid, but take
The pepper on my tongue and thus invoke
Those very fiends in their dread mother's name,
And then command the Prince of leaguing Woes
(Though hastening to the River's lip) to turn
Again—such now is Ífa's counsel, borne
Swift in the form of Messengers to me
her to go
|His priest, his voice: 'Evil has come down on Ífè:|
By Evil only can desire prevail.
Take six he-goats to Éshu, the Undoer;
Thus crave his aid and go, Great Mórimi,
A harlot to the land of Úbo'" . . So sped
Mórimi to the rebel town; and when
|A lord of Úbo sought her midst the shades|
Of night, the Undoer's will possessed his lips,
And he betrayed the way of Úbo's downfall.
While Éshu's shrine yet ran with blood, the Gods,
Unknowing, sat alone in their abasement,|
And Ógun said: "We scorned our upstart son;
Scorned him and let him be—nor bore in mind
The wisdom of the Past, 'A little snake
Is yet a snake.'1 See now the end has come:
Swift from the sight of mocking men we must
Depart. The sage Osányi will lay wide
The door of our deliverance: come then—
For naked of dominion what are we Gods?"
And one by one Osányi gave his charms
To the lorn Gods. . Orísha could but moan
"Children I made you—who but I?" and sank
Beneath the soil he loved. And Óshun2 threw
Her body down—but never ceased: a stream
Gushed up, the sacred stream that flows for ever.
Olókun3 fell; 'neath the wide Earth she flowed
To the broad spaces of her troubled realm. . .
|So went the Gods; but last, as Osányi gave|
The charm to Ógun, last of all the Gods—
Back from the rebel town Great Mórimi
Rushed back, and cried: "The fire the vulture brought
p. 45 Shall slay the hosts of Úbo!". . . The months crept by
Fate-laden, white King Ógun's warrior son,
|Orányan,1 schooled the sireless lads to War;|
But when the festive season came, he hid
Them with red fire prepared within the city,
And, as the invading hosts of Úbo scaled
The walls, a rush of flaming boughs destroyed
Grass garments and rebellious men. Thus fell
Úbo before Orányan, and her folk
Saw slavery in Ífè. . .
|Time spared these deeds—|
|But gave to the impenetrable wilds|
The place where Úbo stood, her rebel Gods,
|Her rites. And here in Ífè, by command|
Of Mórimi, the children of the captives
Worship Olúbo, but must flee before
Orányan's fire. And on those days of feasting
No man may blame his wife for her misdeeds—
All-mindful of the guile of Mórimi.
1 See Note VII on Úbo and the Édi Festival.
2 See Note X on Ógun.
3 Yoruba saying.
1 See Note XIII. These goblins are called Elérè.
1 See Note XIII for the incantation.
1 Yoruba saying.
2 See Note VIII on Óshun.
3 See Note IX on Olókun.
1 See Note X on Ógun and Orányan.