The great mountain trembles from your song

The varied paths of the Mkize clan have opened.

Beautiful son of Nomkhubulwane,

You ate the black fruits of thunder

And cleaved the forest like an afternoon sun.

You pierced the blankets of clouds with the voice of

A singing bird.

You led the traveller to the alcoves of paradise.

There, people fed their minds with fresh memories,

Praising your greatness, they proclaimed:

‘Bull of many folds, who comes and goes at will,

Lick the young calf with the soft end of your tongue.

Make its fantasies linger at the place of meeting.

Make the wise wistness the fearful creations.

When they climb the sacred mountain,

May they boast your name.

In that moment, give them the power to listen.

Then swirling like a hurricane,

Scatter the dew on the fields and over the forest.

Hold the round clay-pot over their heads

Until they declare:

“Come with us, you, who is proud,

Grant immortality to all things,

Give life to the wise and the restless children,

Grant the freedoms promised to us these thousand years


Mazisi Kunene, Poet laureate of Africa (1993-2006) and of South Africa (2005-2006)

This poem is from The Ancestors & the Sacred Mountain (1982).

Kunene is probably most famous for his epic poem,Emperor Shaka the Great, which is based upon Zulu oral tradition and published in 1979. Buy it here.

Photo courtesy of the Mazisi Kunene Foundation.