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|An age passed by, and Ífè knew no more|
Of battles; for Ógun, grey and bent, chose out
The way of peace beloved of Old Arámfè.
| Forgotten lives were lived, and shadowy priests|
Kept warm the altars of the departed Gods:
Old men went softly to the River's lip1
Unsung: 'twixt hope and fear mute colonists
Went forth to the strange forests of the World;
And unremembered wives sought out the shrines
Of the givers of new life. Their names are lost. . .
Yet now, Oíbo, let a final tale
Be told; for, at the last, that silent age
Yields up the legend of its fall. In those
Last tranquil years the mothers blessed King Ógun
For peaceful days and night's security;
And old men used to tell of their brave deeds
In battles where Orányan led, applaud
The torch-lit dance and pass their last calm days
Happily. . . But then came traders from the wilds
p. 47 By thorn and tangle of scarce-trodden ways
Through the dim woods with wondrous tales they heard
At crossway markets1 in far lands of deeds
Orányan did on battlefields beyond
The region of the forests. These tales, oft-told
In house and market, filled the air with rumours
And dreams of war which troubled the repose
Of ancient Ífè—for, while the fathers feared
The coming of the day when the grey God,
Aweary of Earth's Kingship, would go back
To his first far-off home, the young men's dreams
Were always of Orányan, and their pale days
|Lagged by. . . Such were the various thoughts of men|
In Ífè, when on a clay, unheralded,
Orányan2 with a host appeared before
Her peaceful gates. None could deny his entrance:
The hero strode again the streets he saved
From the Olúbo's grass-clad men, and came
Before his father to demand the crown
Of Odudúwa. King Ógun spoke: "My son,
p. 48 'Tis long since you were here, and you are welcome.
But why with these armed men do you recall
Times well-forgotten and the ancient wars?
This is a land of peace: beneath the shade
Of Ífè's trees the mirth of Heaven's vales
Has found a home, the chorus and the dance
Their measure. Lay by your arms, and may no hurt
Attend your coming or your restful hours!"
Harshly Orányan answered his old father:
"You speak of peace, Great Ógun, and the calm
Arámfè destined for a World to be.
Arámfè spoke—and Odudúwa's dream
Of wisdom linked to supreme power begat
A theft!1 And that same night on Heaven's rim
Devised another destiny for men.
What Heaven-sent art has Ógun to undo
That deed, and bid the still-born live? Besides,
Who taught the peaceful peoples of the World
Their longing for red War? Who forged their weapons—
With steel Arámfè gave for harvesting?
Who slew young maids who would not wed to bear
p. 49 More sons for ancient wars? Who, pray, but Ógun,
The God of War? . . What then? 'Tis said: 'The field
The father sowed his son shall reap!'"1 And Ógun
Made answer: "The story of my life has been
As the succeeding seasons in the course
Where Óshun pours her stream. First, long ago,
The sunny months of heaven when I roamed
A careless boy upon the mountains; then,
As a whole season when the boisterous storms
Fill full the crag-strewn bed with racing waters,
And the warm Sun is hidden by the clouds,
Doom brought me journeys, toils in darkness, wars
And yet more wars. Again the barren months
Are here: the wagtail lights upon the rock
The river hid; a lazy trickle moves
And in my age Arámfè's promised peace
Gives back her stolen happiness to Ífè. . . .
And now, the sage Osányi2 is no more,
His charms forgotten: I cannot turn to stone
And vanish like Odúwa; I cannot cast
p. 50 My worn old body down to rise instead
A river of the land, as Óshun did.
No, Earth must hold me, glad or desolate,
A King or outcast in the vague forest,
Till Heaven call me—when the locked pools bask,
And Óshun sleeps. . . Till then I ask to be
In peace; and, with my tale of days accomplished,
My last arts taught, Arámfè's bidding done—
I, the lone God on Earth who knows fair Heaven,
And the calm life the Father bade us give
To men,—I, Ógun, will make way, and go
Upon the road I came." But Orányan said:
"Let the first Mistress of the World decide.
These years the kingly power has passed away
From the old sleeping town Odúwa built
To me, Orányan, battling in far lands
Where no voice spoke of Ífè. Let Ífè choose
Her way: obscurity or wide renown!"
A silence fell: the black clouds of the storm
Were overhanging human destiny;
The breathless pause before the loud wind's blast
Held all men speechless—though they seemed to heave
For utterance. At length, Eléffon, the friend|
Of Ógun, voiced the fond hopes of the old chiefs
Who feared Orányan and his coming day:
"Ours is the city of the shrines which guard
The spirits of the Gods, and all our ways
Are ordered by the Presences which haunt
The sacred precincts. The noise of war and tumult
Is far from those who dream beneath the trees
Of Ífè. There is another way of life:
The way of colonists. By God's command,
From this first breast the infant nations stray
To the utter marches of humanity.
Let them press onward, and let Orányan lead them
Till the far corners of the World be filled;
Let the unruly fall before their sword
Until the Law prevail. But let not Ífè
Swerve from the cool road of her destiny
For dreams of conquest; and let not Ógun leave
The roof, the evening firelight and the ways
Of men—to go forth to the naked woods."
And the old chiefs echoed: "Live with us yet, Oh, Ógun!
Reign on your stable throne." But murmurs rose
From the young men—suppressed at first, then louder—|
Until their leader, gaining courage, cried:
"Empty our life has been—while from far plains,
Vibrant with the romance, the living lustre,
Orányan's name bestows, great rumours came
To mock our laggard seasons; and each year
Mórimi's festival recalls alike
The hero's name and Ífè's greatness. Must
All Ífè slumber that the old may drowse?
No; we will have Orányan, and no other,
To be our King." And a loud cry went up
From his followers: "Orányan is our King!"
And in that cry King Ógun heard the doom
A chieftain of our day sees clear in eggs1
Of fateful parrots in his inmost chamber:
The walls of his proud city (his old defence)
Can never more uphold a rule of iron
For victor treachery within. And wearily
He spoke his last sad words: "My boyhood scarce
Had ended on Arámfè's happy hills
p. 53 When I came here with Odudúwa; with him,
Lovingly I watched this ancient city growing,
And planted the grand forests for a robe
For queenly Ífè. I have grown old with Ífè:
Sometimes I feel that Ógun did become
Ífè, and Ífè Ógun, with the still lapse
|Of years. Yet she rejects me. Ah! my trees|
Would be more kind, and to my trees I go."
Dawn came; and Ógun stood upon a hill
To Westward, and turned to take a last farewell
Of his old queen of cities—but white and dense.
O'er harbouring woods and unremembering Ífè
A mist was laid and blotted all. . Beyond,
As islands from a morning sea, arose
Two lone grey hills; and Ógun dreamed he saw
Again those early days, an age gone by,
When he and Great Odúwa watched the Bird
Found those grand hills with magic sand,—bare slopes,
Yet born to smile. . . That vision paled: red-gold
Above grey clouds the Sun of yesterday
Climbed up—to shine on a new order. . So passed
Old Ógun from the land.
1 The River which separates this World from the next.
1 Markets are often found at crossroads in the forest.
2 See Note X. on Ógun and Orányan.
1 The theft of Orísha's bag.
1 Yoruba saying.
2 Osányi made the charms which enabled the Gods to transform.
1 A gift of parrot's eggs to a Yoruba chief is an intimation that he has reigned long enough and that, should he die by his own hand, trouble would be saved.