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I. The Beginning

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p. 12

white man visits f, the sacred city of the Yrubas, and asks to hear the history of the place. The rn, the religious head of Yrubaland, begins, and directs the Babalwo Arba, the chief-priest of fa to continue.

p. 13

I. The Beginning.

\"The rn of f speaks:"

Obo, you have asked to hear our lore,

The legends of the World's young hours--and where

Could truth in greater surety have its home

Than in the precincts of the shrines of Those

Who made the World, and in the mouths of priests

To whom their doings have been handed down

From sire to son?


reigns in

Before this World was made

There reigned Armf in the realm of Heaven

Amidst his sons. Old were the hills around him;

The Sun had shone upon his vines and cornfields

Since time past reckoning. Old was Armf,

The father of the Gods: his youth had been

The youth of Heaven... Once when the King reclined

Upon the dais, and his sons lay prostrate

In veneration at his feet, he spoke

tells his

sons of the

creation of

Of the great things he purposed:

"My sons, you know

But fair things which I made for you, before

I called your spirits from the Dusk: for always

p. 14

Your eyes have watched the shadows and the wind

On waving corn, and I have given you

The dances and the chorus of the night--

An age of mirth and sunrise (the wine of Heaven)

Is your existence. You have not even heard

Of the grey hour when my young eyes first opened

To gaze upon a herbless Mass, unshaped

And unadorned. But I knew well the heart

Of Him-Who-Speaks-Not, the far-felt Purpose that gave

Me birth; I laboured and the grim years passed:

Streams flowed along their sunny beds; I set

The stars above me, and the hills about;

I fostered budding trees, and taught the birds

Their song--the unshapely I had formed to beauty,

And as the ages came I loved to make

The beautiful more fair... All went not well:

A noble animal my mind conceived

Emerged in loathsome form to prey upon

My gentle creatures; a river, born to bask

In sunlit channels and mirror the steep hills,

Tore down its banks and ravaged field and plain;

While cataract and jagged precipice,

Now grand with years, remind me of dread days

p. 15

When Heaven tottered, and wide rifts sundered my young

Fair hills, and all seemed lost. Yet--I prevailed.

Think, now, if the accomplished whole be Heaven,

How wonderful the anxious years of slow

And hazardous achievement--a destiny

For Gods. But yours it has not been to lead

Creation by the cliff's-edge way from Mass

To Paradise." He paused on the remembrance,

And Great Orsha cried: "Can we do naught?

What use in godhead without deeds to do?

Where yearns a helpless region for a hand

To guide it?" And Old Armf answered him:

sends them

to make the

"My son, your day approaches. Far-off, the haze

Rests always on the outer waste which skirts

Our realm; beyond, a nerveless Mass lies cold

'Neath floods which some malign unreason heaves.

Odwa, first-born of my sons, to you I give

The five-clawed Bird, the sand of power.1 Go now,

Call a despairing land to smiling life

Above the jealous sea, and found sure homesteads

For a new race whose destiny is not

The eternal life of Gods. You are their judge;

p. 16

Yours is the kingship, and to you all Gods

And men are subject. Wisest of my sons,

Orsha, yours is the grateful task to loose

Vague spirits1 waiting for the Dawn--to make

The race that shall be; and to you I give

This bag of Wisdom's guarded lore and arts

For Man's well-being and advancement. And you,

My younger sons, the chorus and the dance,

The voice of worship and the crafts are yours

To teach--that the new thankful race may know

The mirth of Heaven and the joys of labour."

Then Odwa said: "Happy our life has been,

And I would gladly roam these hills for ever,

Your son and servant. But to your command

I yield; and in my kingship pride o'ersteps

Sorrow and heaviness. Yet, Lord Armf,

I am your first-born: wherefore do you give

The arts and wisdom to Orsha? I,

The King, will be obeyed; the hearts of men

Will turn in wonder to the God who spells

Strange benefits." But Armf said "Enough;

To each is fitting task is given. Farewell."

The Gods



p. 17

Here the Beginning was: from Armf's vales

Through the desert regions the exiled Gods approached

The edge of Heaven, and into blackness plunged--

A sunless void o'er godless water lying--1

To seize an empire from the Dark, and win

Amidst ungoverned waves a sovereignty.


steals the

bag and

causes War

on Earth.
But by the roadside while Orsha slept

Odwa came by stealth and bore away

The bag Armf gave. Thus was the will

Of God undone: for thus with the charmed sand

Cast wide on the unmastered sea, his sons

Called forth a World of envy and of war.

Of Man's Creation, and of the restraint

Olkun2 placed upon the chafing sea,

Of the unconscious years which passed in darkness

Till dazzling sunshine touched the unused eyes

Of men, of War and magic--my priest shall tell you,

And all the Great Ones did before the day

They vanished to return to the calm hills

Life in f

is as it was

in the time

of the Gods

p. 18

Of Old Armf's realm... They went away;

But still with us their altars and their priests

Remain, and from their shrines the hidden Gods

Peer forth with joy to watch the dance they taught,

And hear each night their chorus with the drum:

For changeless here the early World endures

In this first stronghold of humanity,

And, constant as the buffets of the waves

Of Queen Olkun on the shore, the song,

The dance of those old Gods abide, the mirth,

The life... I, too, am born of the Beginning:


speaks for

the Gods;
For, when from the sight of men the Great Gods passed,

They left on Earth rn Odm'la1 charged

To be a father to a mourning people,

To tend the shrines and utter solemn words

Inspired by Those invisible. And when

Odm'la's time had come to yield the crown,

To wait upon the River's brink,2 and cross

To Old Armf--fa,3 in his wisdom,

and lives

for ever in

the person

of the


p. 19

Proclaimed that son with whom Odm'la's soul

Abode. Thus has it ever been; and now

With me that Being is--about, within--

And on our sacred days these lips pronounce

The words of Odudwa and Orsha.



p. 15

See Note I on the Creation of the Earth.

p. 16

See Note IV on the Creation of Man.

p. 17

See Note I on the Creation.

2 The Goddess of the Sea.

p. 18

See Note II on Odm'la, the first rn of l.

2 The River which separates this World from the next.

3 The Messenger of the Gods. See Note XII on his divination.
bethesda and jesu| in the name of jesus christ of nazareth
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