Poems

Rememberance

This is a literal translation, although it does not follow the literal word order of the Amharic which can be quite distant from the natural word order in English. I have transferred the special punctuation marks (each word is separated by a punctuation mark in Amharic, I have missed these out).

Remembrance[1]- 1st literal translation

Taking me the train went bringing me out of London
Separating me from smoke from the fog from the dust
Mixing the soot with the coal dust[2]
While it spins the fog from the carded cotton of steam
Clothing the country reward for piety and punishment of
damnation
Yizze kataf [taking—quickly] says the powerful weaver.
A marvel—a wonder—an astonishing thing it is a miracle it
is life
From coal smoke escaping through the power of coal.
In the carriage was seating for ten people
So that my heat would not dissipate
The carriage door which I had closed to
One even bold [enough] who would open it was lacking
and while there was space being missing people were lined up
Outside in the cold while ashamed to enter
Into the carriage which was closed in which was a black man
—And coal is black life of England
Location/stall and foundation of her wealth.
With the whistle of its flute[3] the train sang
From far began to be seen heaps of dry hay
My spirit burst into a village of my country
In the green meadow in the countryside of England
In a blink of the eye I became/was “a traveller of God”[4]
“Good day people of the house”
—I am your black guest[5] your means of being deemed
pious!
“Enter the house is for a guest!” the householder said to me
His wife brought warm water in a large wooden tub
While she was (very) happy kneeling in front of me
She washed my feet —“Don’t be shy[6] my friend!”
My palate blessed that tulla beer of Gojjam
A bowl approached the grain reservoir of my stomach filled
I licked my fingers —linseed oil of Gondar—
Chicken stew entered mixed with curds
When I was full I yawned my sleep came and
They put me to sleep on a cotton blanket covering [me]
with a woollen blanket
The door as it opened I heard I woke up as it closed.
The anger/fever/excited state cooled down in me as my
spirit calmed
I glanced sideways with my eyes at the brave youth
The bold one who had entered where I was sleeping.
Seeing his shirt together with the tie
My face smiled
It made me laugh—his cleanliness.

I have worked on this translation a little and come up with the following which I feel can be improved a lot.

Remembrance, revised literal translation

The train left and took me out of London
Removed me from the smoke the smog the dust
Mixing the soot with coaldust
Spinning fog from the carded cotton of steam
Clothing the country: reward and punishment;
‘Shifting—quick’ says the powerful weaver.
A wonder amazing a marvel; life’s a miracle
Through the power of coal smoke escapes from coal.
Within the carriage was seating for ten people
No one was even brave enough to open
The door I’d pushed to so that my warmth wasn’t lost
Although there was space they stayed away the people
Lined up outside in the cold ashamed to enter
The closed carriage in which there sat a black man.
And yet the coal is black the life of England
Location and foundation of its wealth.
With the whistle of its flute the train sang out
In the distance heaps of dried hay were seen
My spirit burst into a village of my country
In the green meadow of the English countryside
I was in an instant a ‘traveller of God’
‘Greetings to the house’
I am your black guest unexpected
Your hospitality will bring you God’s favour
‘Enter guest ’ the householder said to me
His wife brought warm water in a tub
Happily kneeling down before me
She washed my feet: ‘Don’t be shy my friend.’
My palate blessed that Gojjami beer
A bowl appeared the dip of my stomach filled
I licked my fingers: linseed oil of Gondar
Chicken stew entered crammed with curds
When I was full I yawned my slumber arrived
On cotton they set me to sleep covered with wool.
I heard the door when it opened and woke when it closed
My excitation cooled as my spirit calmed
With disapproval I eyed the brave youth
The bold one who had entered where I’d slept
I saw his shirt and the tie that went with it
It made me laugh—his cleanliness!

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