Sunday, February 13, 2022

Song of a common Lover


 Song of a Common Lover

by  Flavien Ranaivo of Madagascar

 Translated by Gerald Moore

Don’t love me, my dear,
like your shadow
for shadows fade at evening
and I want to keep you
right up to cockcrow;
nor like pepper
which makes the belly hot
for then I couldn't take you
when I’m hungry;
nor like a pillow
for we’d be together in the hours of sleep
but scarcely meet by day;
nor like rice
for once swallowed you think no more of it;
nor like soft speeches
for they quickly vanish;
nor like honey
sweet indeed but too common.
Love me like a beautiful dream,
your life in the night,
my hope in the day;
like a piece of money,
ever with me on earth,
and for the great journey
a faithful comrade;
like a calabash:
intact, for drawing water;
in pieces, bridges for my guitar.

Flavien Ranaivo was born in 1914 in Arivonimamo, Madagascar, and died in 1999 in Troyes, France. A love poet, he repaid his debt to the exquisite traditional Hain-teny sung poetry of Malagasy with some of the most innovative poems in African literature. He was deeply rooted in the earth and folklore of Madagascar. For a period he was minister of information in the government.

Madagascar, Africa’s largest island, owes its genesis to an old traditional form of courtship poetry that has flourished over centuries. Hain-teny, the “formal” Malagasy classical dialogue love poetry, animates and fertilizes the love poems of such prominent Negritude poets ike Flavien Ranaivo, who consciously experimented with these oral poetic forms as a base for modern poetry.

This poem uses earthy images to define how his lover should be and each comparison he later discards sounds logical and appropriate. His final plea of  "Love me like a beautiful dream,/your life in the night,/my hope in the day" seems a sweet definition of how his lover should be.

As the saying goes, Love is the ultimate no-calorie sweetener 😊. Happy Valentine’s Day to all those who are in love and wish to fall in love too.

Source :The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry: Fourth Edition (Penguin Classics) Paperback – September 14, 2007
by Gerald Moore (Editor, Translator, Introduction), Ulli Beier (Editor)