The story so far:
THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS
It might come as some surprise to many people, but my African ancestor, one Owongo of circa 100,000 years ago, knew that he was standing on the shoulders of giants.
Too many years .have passed since he furtively stalked his prey through thicket and undergrowth for us to know clearly what he did and how he thought but we might get a clue from a poem he wrote.
Well, I say poem and write but he couldn't write and knew nothing of rhyme or rhythm, so it was more like a drawing.
So my distant ancestor wrote a poem using those talents available to him, and it was so moving and all-embracing from an emotional perspective that it made him weep.
He was in his cave, gazing at his poem (charcoal lines on a rugged stone wall) and weeping at the beauty of it all when his good woman Mirumda came in. She'd been outside, doing womanly things like preparing a boar-skin by scraping the hairs off it and singing a gentle song to herself, and she was feeling both happy and fulfilled.
“What is it, Owongo my love?” she asked in her own language which sounded nothing like the romantic cadences of modern English but which I've translated anyway.
“I have versified,” he replied, pointing to the wall.
“Has our son been scribbling again?” she yelped. “Wait till I get my hands on him! I'll whip him like he's never been whipped before!”
“No – it's me!” protested Owongo. “Look, woman, at my versification!”
“What is?” she asked after a moment of pulling a very feminine face behind his back.
He looked at her proudly. “It is my pome,” he said, so proudly that his head visibly swelled.
“What is?” she repeated.
He pointed at his charcoal lines, crude on the rough wall.
“See this?” he asked, pointing towards a rough circle with the kind of jagged edges that all charcoal lines make when they're hurriedly daubed on a rough surface.
“The sun?” she asked, and he, being a man and thus superior in all things, back-handed her across the face.
“Mirumda stupid!” he barked. “That's the god! Anyone can see that! That's the god and the god is about to create everything that's beautiful and noble and wonderful and … manly.”
“What's the god?” she asked, injecting a huge amount of humility into her voice.
“The god made everything. In the beginning, long, long ago. He said let there be this and there was this. He said let there be that and there was that. Light came, and skies, and green fields and babies and even teensy little mouses. Everything came.”
“In the beginning?” asked Mirumda.
“In the beginning,” he agreed. “And I have written this poem that tells it. On the wall of our home so that we can read it every day, and bow down to the god, and worship and praise him.”
“My granddad used to tell of the god,” whispered Mirumda. “He used to dribble a lot, and folks said he was mad.”
“He was mad,” agreed Owongo.
“And all the other old men. They used to talk of the god in between dribbles, how that world was made, all that ****.”
“They were mad. But I've seen the light. I know.” gloated Owongo. “See my pome,” he added.
“I'll whip the kid,” decided Mirumda, and she hurried out of the cave before she received another glancing blow from his back hand.
But he didn't notice. He smiled to himself and fantasised about his god and creation and the odds and ends that whirled around in his brain and his pome.
Because he knew he was standing on the shoulders of giants even though those giants might have been considered a little bit past it, and daft.
And the good thing about it was Owongo's poem was on that wall until the wall crumbled away, but by then it had been copied and translated and repeated and everyone knew it and sighed and called it the best of truths, though everyone forgot Owongo.
©Peter Rogerson 26.02.12