I am the first Earth Mother of all fertility.
I am the Source, I am the Nile, I am the African, I am the beginning!
O Arabia, how could you so conveniently have forgotten,
while your breath still hangs upon the threads of my springs?
O Egypt, you prodigal daughter born from my first love,
I am your Queen of the endless fresh waters,
who rested my head upon the arms of Narmer Ka Menes
when we joined in one our Upper and Lower Lands to create you!
O Sudan, born out of the bosom of my being,
how could you so conveniently count down
in miserable billions of petty cubic yards
the eternal drops of my life-giving Nile to you?
Beginning long before the earth fell from the eye-ball of heaven,
O Nile, that gushes out from my breath of life
upon the throats of the billions of the Earth’s thirsty multitudes,
O World, how could you so conveniently have forgotten
that I, your first fountain, I your ever Ethiopia
I your first life still survive for you?
I rise like the sun from the deepest core of the globe.
I am the conquoror of scorching pestilences.
I am the Ethiopia that “stretches her hands in supplication to God”.
I am the mother of the tallest traveller on the longest journey on Earth!
My name is Africa, I am the mother of the Nile.
O Nile, my prodigal daughter in the wilderness of the desert,
bringing God’s harmony to all brothers and sisters
and calming down their noises of brass in their endless nakednesses,
O Nile, you are music that restores the rhythm of existence
into the awkward stampeding of these Middle Eastern blindnesses,
you are the irrigator that cultivates peace
from my Ethiopian sacred mountains of the sun,
across to nod on the East of Aden and across Sinai,
beyond Gibraltar into the heights of Mount Moriah,
O Nile, my chosen sacrifice for a universal peace offering
upon whose gift the heritages of Meroe and Egypt
still survive for the benefit of our lone World.
You are the proud daughter, O Nile, who taught
the ancient world how to walk in upright grace!
You are my prodigal daughter who saved and breast-fed
little lost Jacob whose brothers sold for food,
you, who nurtured, fed and raised
the child prophet called Moses on your cradle,
you, who stretched out your helping hand and protected
the baby Christ from the slaughtering swords of Herod,
O Nile, my infinite prodigal daughter
at whose feet mountains like Alexander bent
their unbendable heads to drink from your life-giving milk,
O Nile, at whose feet giants like Caesar knelt,
conquerors like Napolean bowed
their unbowable heads to partake from your imortal bounty.
O Nile, you are the majestic blood line of my African glory
that showers my blessings upon the starved of the world,
you are the eloquence that rings the Ethiopian bell across the deaf world!
You are the gifted dancer of graceful rhythms
that harmonize with your sisters Etbara and Shabale,
with your brothers Awash and Juba,
to fertilize the scorched sands of Arabia.
O Nile, without your gift Mediterranean shall be a rock of dead waters
and Sahara shall be a basket of skeletons!
You are Africa’s black soil that produces life.
You are the milk that quenches the thirsty multitudes.
You are the messenger of my gospel, O Nile,
that brings my abundant harvest to the mouth of the needy.
You are the elegant pilgrim of my mercy.
You are the first fountain, you are the first ever Ethiopia.
You are the appeaser of the lustful greeds.
You are the first Earth Mother of all fertility,
Rising like the sun from the deepest core of the globe.
You are the conqueror of the scorching pestilence.
You are the source, the Africa, the Ethiopia, you are the Nile.
~ Tsegaye Gebre-Medhin
Tsegaye Gebre-Medhin was Poet Laureate of Ethiopia, and was elected to the United Poets Laureate International. He was also a playwright, essayist, translator, and art director.
Editor’s note: ‘Nile’ was written in English, August 1997.