Song Of Slaves In The Desert





"Sebah, Oasis of Fezzan, 10th March, 1846.--This evening the female

slaves were unusually excited in singing, and I had the curiosity to ask

my negro servant, Said, what they were singing about. As many of them

were natives of his own country, he had no difficulty in translating the

Mandara or Bornou language. I had often asked the Moors to translate

their songs for me, but got no satisfactory account from them. Said at

first said, 'Oh, they sing of Rubee' (God). 'What do you mean?' I

replied, impatiently. 'Oh, don't you know?' he continued, 'they asked

God to give them their Atka?' (certificate of freedom). I inquired, 'Is

that all?' Said: 'No; they say, "Where are we going? The world is large.

O God! Where are we going? O God!"' I inquired, `What else?' Said: `They

remember their country, Bornou, and say, "Bornou was a pleasant country,

full of all good things; but this is a bad country, and we are

miserable!"' `Do they say anything else?' Said: 'No; they repeat these

words over and over again, and add, "O God! give us our Atka, and let us

return again to our dear home."'



"I am not surprised I got little satisfaction when I asked the Moors

about the songs of their slaves. Who will say that the above words are

not a very appropriate song? What could have been more congenially

adapted to their then woful condition? It is not to be wondered at that

these poor bondwomen cheer up their hearts, in their long, lonely, and

painful wanderings over the desert, with words and sentiments like

these; but I have often observed that their fatigue and sufferings were

too great for them to strike up this melancholy dirge, and many days

their plaintive strains never broke over the silence of the desert."--

Richardson's Journal in Africa.



WHERE are we going? where are we going,

Where are we going, Rubee?

Lord of peoples, lord of lands,

Look across these shining sands,

Through the furnace of the noon,

Through the white light of the moon.

Strong the Ghiblee wind is blowing,

Strange and large the world is growing!

Speak and tell us where we are going,

Where are we going, Rubee?



Bornou land was rich and good,

Wells of water, fields of food,

Dourra fields, and bloom of bean,

And the palm-tree cool and green

Bornou land we see no longer,

Here we thirst and here we hunger,

Here the Moor-man smites in anger

Where are we going, Rubee?



When we went from Bornou land,

We were like the leaves and sand,

We were many, we are few;

Life has one, and death has two

Whitened bones our path are showing,

Thou All-seeing, thou All-knowing

Hear us, tell us, where are we going,

Where are we going, Rubee?



Moons of marches from our eyes

Bornou land behind us lies;

Stranger round us day by day

Bends the desert circle gray;

Wild the waves of sand are flowing,

Hot the winds above them blowing,--

Lord of all things! where are we going?

Where are we going, Rubee?



We are weak, but Thou art strong;

Short our lives, but Thine is long;

We are blind, but Thou hast eyes;

We are fools, but Thou art wise!

Thou, our morrow's pathway knowing

Through the strange world round us growing,

Hear us, tell us where are we going,

Where are we going, Rubee?

1847.





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