The Tigre dirges
The dirges will be of interest when compared with the funerary poetry of
the Hebrews and the Arabs. The metre in which they are composed is the
same as that of the Hebrew qlna; the only difference is, that in Tigre
the verses have a rather imperfect rhyme. The sarur ("dirge") of the
Tigre tribes is sung only by women, like the qina of the Hebrews, the
marthiya of the Arabs, the pyvo of the Greeks. It was, therefore, quite
difficult for Naffé Wad Utman to collect the specimens given here,
because the dirges are generally not repeated nor handed down by men. He
had, therefore, access only to those which had been composed by the
women of his own family or that were known to them. Some of them were
very suspicious and thought he wished to mock at their grief; others
wept when they sang the dirges to him, remembering their own sorrow and
the losses which had given rise to their lamentation.
Indeed, a number of these dirges show a true feeling, and the outburst
of the mourners' emotion is often very touching: many a time we find
here the fruitless attempt to break through the laws of nature, born of
the vain wish to recall the dead to life. A young mother whose husband
had died addresses her littl son, saying: "Let us go now, Esman, let us
implore thy father ! For thee he loves, he will not refuse thy prayer."
Another example of the simplicity of expression and the depth of feeling
is sung by a woman who had been a slave-girl, but had been freed after
having borne a son to her master; when this son died, a son, whom she
loved so much that she wondered: "How could a man beget him? And how a
woman conceive him?", she became more wretched than she had been as a
slave. As all Semitic poetry even these dirges cannot be understood
without a commentary.
I have added, therefore, brief comments to every dirge; but one may
easily imagine that it often took a long while before I arrived at a
satisfactory understanding. The obscure expressions, the abrupt way of
speaking, the mention of persons and places unknown to us mar, as it
were, the poetical effect on Western readers. But he who is willing to
read the dirges first with the explana- tory remarks, and then a second
time without them, will find that many of them are worth reading.
dirge by the wife of Fekak, the son Be^emnat, for her
father-in-law Be^emnat. Be-emnat fought, together with his
son Terag, at Et-hemmarat, against Obe . And they killed
many of the army of Obe. Then he and his son died there. And
the wife of his son sang of him in this way.