Title: Iwa Rere L’Oso Enia
Author: Samuel Adeleye Adenle (Later Oba S.A. Adenle, Ataoja of Osogbo)
Pages & Form: 123; Narrative Poem
Printer: TanimehinOla Press, Ijebu-Ode, 1938.
Price: Bought from a rare Books seller in USA for $25.00, incl. Postage, 2005!
[Late Oba S.A. Adenle's two poetry volumes referred to by Karin Barber below were re-issued in 2006 along with the publication of his biography by this Blogger & her spouse, Dr. Depo Adenle, a son of the Late Oba.]
The past caught up with the present – for Nigeria – at a 2004 London Workshop – Social Context Workshop Three: Literary Communities – and the present was found wanting. An abstract of a paper presented by Karin Barber, a former researcher at the University of Ibadan Institute of African Studies: Artifice and Vacancy in the Yoruba Provinces [Number 7 of 16], states in
… S.A. Adenle was a provincial schoolmaster and trader in Osogbo, Western Nigeria, in the 1920s and 30s. He was also an inventor, who designed and built a mechanical loom using a bicycle wheel. Among his most notable inventions were two pamphlets written in Yoruba in a poetic form of his own devising. The second and longer pamphlet, in particular, seems to have no precedent and no sequel in Yoruba literary history. It is a 124-page didactic narrative poem which is rigorously metrical in the sense that every stanza is composed of lines containing exactly the same number of syllables – a strange feat when one considers that Yoruba is an unstressed tonal language and its orature is based on free and variable breath-groups rather than any form of metre. …
A Review by Tola Adenle
If poetry in English Language supposedly “says more in fewer words”, Yoruba poetry seems to do that even more. In Iwa Rere L’Oso Enia, instances of this abound but let us take a look at Barber’s contention a little more.
In this narrative poetry, Late Oba Adenle, a product of St. Andrew’s College, Oyo (1924 graduate), takes us through the life (reign) of an arrogant Yoruba king, Oba Adeoye Alausa, who believes he is all in all. Oba Adenle weaves a tortuous narrative in which servants and people who know this Oba, through side stories and sub-plots, he precedes each by indicating the non-metre beat – so to say – of the narrative.
I am still trying to find out if Oba Adenle wrote Orin Enia Dudu, the opening narrativein which he talks about Africa, and invokes God to please wake up the continent and bless her. In this Orin (Hymn) and every narrative of the book, he indicates – in the manner of the Yoruba (old C.M.S.) Hymnal, the number of syllables in each line of the segment. He announces after the title, for example, “7.6 Syl”, and those familiar with the Yoruba Hymn book and a little knowledge of Music immediately can appreciate that alternate lines will carry seven and six syllables. There are some segments in twelve syllable-lines, a case of 14-syllable narrative of two stanzas, i.e. verses, and even a 16-syllable narrative that goes on for forty-six stanzas! There are two daring cases of 184.108.40.206 Syl. that go on for seven stanzas.
The most daring metring, though, is right smack in the middle of Page 110 and in the middle of Akeredolu’s story, the man who would become king after the dictatorial Adeoye. From Stanza 39 for several stanzas, Oba Adenle changes to 10.8.8.8.8.12: this means that for every stanza, the first line has ten syllables; the second, eight; the third, eight; the fourth line, eight; the fifth, eight, and the sixth line, twelve before he starts another stanza using the same pattern all over again!
ORIN ENIA DUDU
1. Ni ‘nu okunkun aiye 7.6 Syl.
At’ itiju Afrik,
Omo ti Africa ye
K’o s’ ise itunse.
‘Gbana l’ Afrika y’o wi,,
“Mo sise ipin mi.”
Egan at’ itiju Afrik
Y’o kuro n’nu aiye.
Compare above to Yoruba Hymn Book 364:
1. A! alejo at’ ero
Laiye yi, Laiye yi!
L’ ebi at’ ongbe l’a wa,
Irora si po jojo,
Laiye yi, Laiye yi.
7.6 Syl. (Syllable) and 7s.6s., that is seven and six syllables per line are exactly the same thing in Music, and a knowledge of this by an old Andrian is not surprising because Music – just like Logic – was a strong subject on the curriculum at Oyo from its founding before decay set in.
However, what is considered a strange feat to Barber – not to me since I have no depth in Yoruba Language – is –“that Yoruba, an unstressed tonal language and its orature … based on free and variable breath-groups rather than any form of metre – how this was so successfully adapted to a Yoruba poem by this “provincial teacher”. Her abstract also contains her bewilderment at “How … Adenle [came] to experiment so freely, and why did his literary invention have no successor, no continuation?
Lacking the ability to take readers inside the academic depth of this long (124-page) narrative, let us enjoy it a bit more at the superficial level.
As I was saying above, Iwa Rere …, true to the tradition of poetry, and in Yoruba Language as a whole, says much more in very few words. Oba Adenle relies heavily on imagery, connotation, speech pattern, “musical” qualities, e.g. rhyme, and implications, to save words – just as in English poetry, and so, we can achieve a clear understanding of his unwritten words:
In 46 Stanzas, Oba Adenle narrates the story (a sub-plot to the main narrative) of a woman struggling to catch her chicken – Obirin Alapon ati Iromo-Adie re. 16 Syl. – and towards the end when she finally catches the chick after a lot of struggle, he alludes to Africa, again:
44. Bayi ni ipin awon enia dudu jasi l’aiye
Ni igba ti gbogbo aiye nwo nkan ti Afrika le se
Ti awon ologbon at’ alagbara aiye ko mo pe,
Owo Afrika fere te alafia at’ ogo re,
Ati pe Afrika ki se were, eda Olorun ni.
45. Nje omo Afrika e gbo oro mi, e ro oro na wo,
E f’eti si eko t’Obirin at’adie yi nko nyin,
E lo ogbon ati aiye yin gege bi obinrin yi,
Ti lo ipa at’ogbon re k’owo re ko to te ife re
Ati ki on ki o to segun gbogbo elegan re tan.
46. E ma si se jeki o su nyin rara, enyin ore mi.
Titi owo nyin yio fi te ife at’ayo nyin,
T’egan at’abuku Africa y’o fi d’iyi at’ogo,
While trying to let the arrogant monarch see the folly in his all-knowing way, Idowu who is one of the monarch’s emewa (messengers), tries to show the monarch that he is heading for destruction. He narrates the story of the chicken woman who kept on pursuing her hard-to-catch chicken despite snide remarks, etcetera. He compares the struggle of the woman to Africa’s struggle to gain respect in the comity of nations and that her citizens must never relent. The implications of her not giving up are clear allusion to the case of Africa.
In the last line of Stanza 44, Ati pe Afrika ki se were, eda Olorun ni, Oba Adenle uses were (mad person) metaphorically by stating that Africa is not mad and eda Olorun ni (Africa is God’s creation) is nothing but personification.
Gradually taking us to the imminent end of the arrogant Oba Adeoye, he weaves the interesting tale of the doves’ babies who refuse the advice of their mother about not attempting to fly out on their own. In a long 12-syllable narrative under Ere Awigbo ati Orikunkun (the end result of two people, Awigbo ati Orikunkun), namesthat are merely descriptive play on words for stubborn people, who refuse to seek counsel or take advice:
3. Wo, emi mo dajudaju bayi wipe,
Emi l’o l’ewa, ogbon at’agbara ju,
Ati-pe gbogbo nkan ni a fi s’ipa mi
Lati lo bi o ba ti wu mi n’gbakugba.
I know that I am the most handsome, the wisest, the strongest, and it is in my power to do anything as I like, at any time.
54. “L’oni ni emi y’o fi han aiye yi pe,
Mo ni ola, ola, agbara ati ogbon
Ju gbogbo eda alaye aiye yi lo
Ngo si fi han pe emi l’Olorun aiye.
Today, the world will be told that I am rich, I am wealthy, I am strong, I am wise – all of these – more than any living human. And I will show that I am God!
It is not long after this that Oba Adeoye, the self-proclaimed ‘god’ who has won wars through the commitment of his people – a fact he discounts – dies of a self-inflicted wound he sustains while trying to slaughter one of his own citizens as a sacrifice, a chore his servants asks to perform on his behalf. He pays the price that is the lot of ‘Awigbo’ and ‘Orikunkun’ .
Oba Adeoti – like modern day African despots – fails to heed the warnings, through various narratives, that some of his messengers pass to him; narratives that show that looks, which he has, mean nothing and that power and wealth (ola ati ola), without character, add up to nothing. The story of Sebiotimo (Humility) and Alaseju (Nothing succeeds like excess) – in 10 syllables – fails to penetrate his brain. So does that of Iyalode, the foodseller whose stew is always very attractive but never has salt! In an 8-syllable narrative, one of the messengers tells the monarch this tale that the Kabiyesi fails to understand due to his delusion.
Iwa rere – good character – which includes fear of God, humility, consideration for others, etcetera – all of which Oba Adeoye Alausa lacks, are far superior to good looks, wealth, acclaim, power and other earthly entrapments.
The Nation on Sunday, May 28, 2006.