Previous Next

Master Poets, Ritual Masters

3

Suti Solo do Bina Bane: Version II from the Domain of Termanu

Introducing the Second Text: Suti Solo do Bina Bane II

The second version in this successive investigation of the chant Suti Solo do Bina Bane was recited by the poet Eli Pellondou of clan Dou Danga, who was more commonly known by the name Seu Ba’i. In 1966, when I recorded this composition, Seu Ba’i was in his late 40s. He lived in the settlement of Namo Dale, not far from Old Meno’s residence in Ola Lain, and I would often meet him at Old Meno’s house, where he, too, was learning from the old man. Seu Ba’i belonged to a cluster of individuals in Namo Dale—including two of his younger cousins—who had obtained their earliest knowledge from senior clan relatives, but during the time of my first fieldwork, Seu Ba’i was involved in extending his knowledge by associating with Old Meno.

Figure 6: Eli Pellondou – ‘Seu Ba’i’

Not surprisingly, Seu Ba’i’s version of Suti Solo do Bina Bane shows a clear relationship to Old Meno’s version. Its narrative, however, is not as well structured as Old Meno’s and it is shorter by one-third. Similarly, the names of the chant characters in Seu Ba’i’s version are virtually the names in Old Meno’s version, with only minor differences. Where Old Meno speaks of Kokolo Dulu//Manupui Peda, Seu Ba’i refers to this character as Boko Dulu//Manupui Peda. But the chant assumes knowledge of the relationships among these characters rather than making them explicit. Unlike Old Meno, who begins with a genealogical introduction, Seu Ba’i begins with the attempt to celebrate the origin feast that requires the woman Nggiti Seti//Peda Hange to prepare her scoop-net and go to fish in the receding tide.

The Origin Feast and the Preparation of the Fishing Net

1.

Boko Dulu hun-na

Boko Dulu’s origin feast

2.

Ma Manupui Peda sio-na.

And Manupui Peda’s feast of nine.

3.

Hus-sa ta laka-se

The origin feast is not lively

4.

Ma lutu ta laka-doto.

And the ringed stones do not resound.

5.

Boe te ala kedi-la mau-don-na

So they cut a mau plant’s leaves

6.

Ma ala pena-la pole-aban-na

And they pluck a pole plant’s cotton tufts

7.

Pole masa-fali pena

A pole with repeated cotton bolls

8.

Mau ma-na’a do-na.

A mau with a mouthful of leaves.

9.

Ala teli kokolo ndai

They string and wind a fishnet

10.

Ma ala ane balu-bui seko la

And they braid and twine scoop-nets

11.

Seko ma-tei besik

A scoop-net with iron-weighted insides

12.

Ma ndai ma-hamu lilok.

And a fishnet with a gold-weighted belly.

13.

Boe te ala fe inak-ka Pedu Hange

They give it to the woman Pedu Hange

14.

Ma fetok-ka Nggiti Seti.

And the girl Nggiti Seti.

15.

Ana tenga-nala ndai tasi

She takes up the fishnet for the sea

16.

Ma ana nggama-nala seko meti.

And she picks up the scoop-net for the tide.

The next passage describes Pedu Hange//Nggiti Seti’s encounter with Suti Solo do Bina Bane as she searches for the ritual fish Tio Holu//Dusu La’e. The chant makes clear that this occurs at the ritually important site Tena Lai//Mae Oe.

The Quest for the Ritual Fish at Tena Lai ma Mae Oe

17.

De siluk bei ta dulu

Morning is not yet in the east

18.

Ma hu’ak bei ta langa.

And dawn is not yet at the head.

19.

Te ana tenga-nala ndai tasi

But she takes up the fishnet for the sea

20.

Ma ana nggama-nala seko meti.

And she picks up the scoop-net for the tide.

21.

De neu nafa-loe dea eik

She goes to probe in the ‘legs’ of the stone weir

22.

Ma neu nafa-nggao lutu limak

And goes to grope in the ‘arms’ of the fish catch

23.

Fo Tena Lai Laok dean

Tena Lai Laok’s stone weir

24.

Ma Mae Oe Loek lutun,

And Mae Oe Loek’s fish wall,

25.

Neu seko sanga Tio peda-poik

Goes to scoop for a Tio to place on top

26.

Ma neu ndai sanga Dusu fua-bafak.

And goes to fish for a Dusu for the basket’s mouth.

27.

Fo Dusu La’e ma Tio Holu

A Dusu La’e and a Tio Holu

28.

Tao neu peda-poik

To place on top of the rice

29.

Ma tao neu fua-bafak.

And to lay on the basket’s mouth.

30.

Fo hus-sala laka-se

So that the origin feast can be made lively

31.

Ma sio-la laka-doto.

And the feast of nine can be made noisy.

32.

Seko basa-lek-kala

She scoops in all the waterholes

33.

Ma ndai basa lifu-la

And she fishes in all the pools

34.

Te ta ndai nita Tio

But she does not fish or see a Tio

35.

Ma ta seko nita Dusu fa.

And does not scoop or see a Dusu.

36.

Ndai nita kada Suti Solo

She fishes but sees only Suti Solo

37.

Ma seko nita kada Bina Bane.

And she scoops but sees only Bina Bane.

A Genealogy of Suti Solo do Bina Bane

It is at this point that Seu Ba’i provides a short genealogical introduction to identify Suti//Bina.

38.

Solo Bane sain anan

The child of Solo Bane of the sea

39.

Ma Bane Aka liun anan.

And the child of Bane Aka of the ocean.

40.

Inak-ka Manu Koa Lasi

The woman Manu Koa of the forest

41.

Fetok-ka Hali Siko Nula

And the girl Hali Siko of the wood

42.

Ana tu Solo Bane sain

She marries Solo Bane of the sea

43.

Ma sao Bane Aka liun.

And she weds Bane Aka of the ocean.

44.

De lae Bina Bane

She brings forth Bina Bane

45.

Ma bongi Suti Solo.

And she gives birth to Suti Solo.

Seu Ba’i reverts to recounting Nggiti Seti//Pedu Hange’s fishing efforts.

46.

Seko basa lek-kala

She scoops in all the waterholes

47.

Ma ndai basa lifu-la

And she fishes in all the pools

48.

Te seko toko heni Bina

But she fishes and throws Bina away

49.

Ma ndai ndano heni Suti.

And she scoops and tosses Suti away.

The Dialogue with the Shells

Suti Solo do Bina Bane addresses Nggiti Seti//Pedu Hange and asks to be taken home and to be used as the ritual substitute for the Tio Holu//Dusu La’e fish.

50.

Boe te Suti neu dede’ak

So Suti begins to speak

51.

Ma Bina neu kokolak, nae:

And Bina begins to talk, saying:

52.

‘Ndai ndano mala au

‘Fish catch and take me

53.

Ma seko toko mala au

Scoop throw and take me

54.

Tao neu peda-poik

To place on top of the rice

55.

Ma tao neu fua-bafak

And to lay on the basket’s mouth

56.

Fo hus-sala laka-se

So that the origin feast can be made lively

57.

Ma sio-la laka doto.’

And the feast of nine can be made noisy.’

The Shells Call for Lole Holu//Lua Bafa

As soon as Suti//Bina are taken up into the house, the shells begin to cry and ask for Lole Holu//Lua Bafa. In this version of the chant, however, Lole Holu//Lua Bafa is not given any formal genealogical introduction.

58.

Boe-ma lo Suti mai uma

So they bring Suti home

59.

Fo mai lao dale

To the inner cooking fire

60.

Ma lo Bina mai uma lai.

And they bring Bina to the upper house.

61.

Boe te Suti neu nama-tani

But Suti begins to cry

62.

Ma Bina neu nasa-kedu

And Bina begins to sob

63.

Nasa-kedu Lole Holu

Sobs for Lole Holu

64.

Ma nama-tani Lua Bafa.

And cries for Lua Bafa.

It is at this point that the dialogue begins between Nggiti Seti//Pedu Hange and Suti//Bina as to where the shells should best be located in their quest for companionship. Lole Holu//Lua Bafa is invoked as the ideal companion. The first dialogue stanza is similar to that of Old Meno’s version, although it lacks one parallel line.

65.

Boe te ana dede’ak no Suti

So she speaks with Suti

66.

Ma ana kokolak no Bina, lae:

And she talks with Bina, saying:

67.

‘Mo tua bou

‘Go with the syrup vat

68.

Ma mo neka hade

And go with the rice basket

69.

Fo masa-lai tua bou.’

That you may lean on the syrup vat.’

70.

[Line missing]

[And that you may sit with rice basket].

71.

Boe te Bina neu kokolak

But Bina begins to talk

72.

Ma Suti neu dede’ak, nae:

And Suti begins to speak, saying:

73.

‘Au u o tua bou

‘I will go with the syrup vat

74.

Ma au o neka hade.

And I go with the rice basket.

75.

De malole ndia so

This is good

76.

Do mandak ndia so.

Or this is proper.

77.

Te neka lama-kako bafa

But if the baskets overflow at the mouth

78.

Fo soka lo lulunun

So that the sacks must be rolled up

79.

Ma tua lama-lua fude

And the syrup runs over with froth

80.

Fo bou lo totonon,

So that the vats must be overturned,

81.

Au dede’ak o se

With whom will I speak

82.

Ma au kokolak o se

And with whom will I talk

83.

Sama leo Lua Bafa

[With someone] just like Lua Bafa

84.

Ma deta leo Lole Holu?’

And exactly like Lole Holu?’

For the study of oral composition, the next passage, which conflates two consecutive dialogue stanzas, is particularly revealing. The stanza that refers to ‘boundary tree and border stone’ and that which refers to ‘pig chews and monkey plucks’ are combined in a way that does not make much sense. However, the knowledge that Seu Ba’i was trying to model this version on Old Meno’s version allows one to recognise the conflation that has occurred. These flaws provide insight into a poet’s approach to composition.

85.

Boe te dede’ak no Suti bai

But she speaks with Suti again

86.

Ma kokolak no Bina bai, lae:

And she talks with Bina again, saying:

87.

‘Mu mo peu ai lasi

‘Go with boundary tree of the forest

88.

Ma mu mo to batu nula.’

And go with border stone of the wood.’

89.

Boe te Bina, ana kokolak

But Bina, he talks

90.

Ma Suti, ana dede’ak, nae:

And Suti, he speaks, saying:

91.

‘Malole ndia so

‘This is good

92.

Ma mandak ndia so.

And this is proper.

93.

Au o peu ai lasi

I will be with boundary tree of the forest

94.

Ma au o to batu nula

And I will be with border stone of the wood

95.

Te bafi ka’a neni pelak

But if the pig chews the maize

96.

Au dede’ak o se

With whom will I speak

97.

Ma kode ketu neni betek

And if monkey plucks the millet

98.

Au kokolak o se

With whom will I talk

99.

Do se’ek o se

Or be noisy with whom

100.

Ma oku-boluk o se

And shout with whom

101.

Sama leo Lua Bafa

[With someone] just like Lua Bafa

102.

Ma deta leo Lole Holu?’

And exactly like Lole Holu?’

Seu Ba’i follows this passage with another that introduces a set stanza of dialogue that does not occur in Old Meno’s chant but does often occur in other versions. Thus Seu Ba’i’s recitation is not simply an attempt at replication but rather one that combines Seu Ba’i’s previous knowledge with what he has derived from Old Meno.

103.

Boe te ala dede’ak lo Suti

So they speak with Suti

104.

Ma ala kokolak lo Bina, lae:

And they talk with Bina, saying:

105.

‘Mu mo pila kumea letek

‘Go with the red kumea grass on the hill

106.

Ma mu mo nggeo kuku telas.’

And go with the black kuku shrub in the underbrush.’

107.

Boe te Suti lole halan-na neu

But Suti lifts his voice

108.

Ma Bina ae dasin-na neu ma nae:

And Bina raises his speech and says:

109.

‘Au o pila kumea letek

‘I will go with the red kumea grass on the hill

110.

Ma au o nggeo kuku telas.

And I go with the black kuku shrub in the underbrush.

111.

Malole ndia so

This is good

112.

Ma mandak ndia so.’

And this is proper.’

113.

Boe te ala dede’ak lo Suti ma lae:

But they speak with Suti and say:

114.

‘Mu mo pila kumea letek

‘Go with red kumea grass on the hill

115.

Ma mu mo nggeo kuku telas.’

And go with black kuku shrub in the underbrush.’

116.

Boe te Suti lole halan-na neu

But Suti lifts his voice

117.

Ma Bina ae dasin-na neu:

And Bina raises his speech:

118.

‘Au o pila kumea letek

‘I will be with red kumea grass on the hill

119.

Ma au o nggeo kuku telas.

And I will be with black kuku grass in the underbrush

120.

De malole a so

It is good

121.

Ma mandak a so.

And it is proper.

122.

Te timu lama-tua dulu

But when the east monsoon grows great in the east

123.

Ma fak lama-nalu langa

And the west monsoon lengthens at the head

124.

Fo pila kumea letek-kala

The red kumea grass on the hill

125.

Lama-dilu leu kalen

Bends down its heavy top

126.

Ma nggeo kuku telas

And the black kuku shrub in the underbrush

127.

Lama-sesu leu bu’un-na

Breaks its heavy joints

128.

Au dede’ak o se

Then with whom will I speak

129.

Ma au kokolak o se

And with whom will I talk

130.

Sama leo Lua Bafa

[With someone] just like Lua Bafa

131.

Ma deta leo Lole Holu?’

And exactly like Lole Holu?’

The final segment of dialogue is again similar to that in Old Meno’s version. In this stanza, Nggiti Seti//Pedu Hange advises the shells to follow ‘the current through the river’ and ‘the rain through the forest’ to return to the sea.

132.

Boe te ala dede’ak seluk lo Suti

So they speak once more with Suti

133.

Ma kokolak seluk lo Bina, lae:

And they talk once more with Bina, saying:

134.

‘Mu mo doa lasi

‘Go with the forest cuckoo

135.

Ma mu mo koloba’o le

And go with the river watercock

136.

Fo ba’o-ba’o tunga le

To [cry] ba’o-ba’o along the river

137.

Ma do-do tunga tunga lasi

And do-do through the forest

138.

Fo udan tunga-tunga lasi

So when the rain passes through the forest

139.

Ma fa tunga-tunga le

And the current passes down the river

140.

Bonu boa fo mu

Then bobbing like boa wood, you may go

141.

Ma ele piko fo mu.

And drifting like piko wood, you may go.

142.

Leo sain mu

To the sea you may go

143.

Ma leo liun mu.’

And to the ocean you may go.’

144.

Boe te Suti neu dedeak

But Suti begins to speak

145.

Ma Bina neu kokolak, nae:

And Bina begins to talk, saying:

146.

‘Malole ndia so

‘This is good

147.

Ma mandak ndia so.

And this is proper.

148.

Au bonu boa fo au u

I will bob like boa wood and go

149.

Ma au ele piko fo u.’

And I will drift like piko wood and go.’

150.

Boe te nae:

But she says:

151.

‘Mu le bibifan

‘Go to the lip of the river

152.

Ma mu oli tatain

And go to the edge of the estuary

153.

Nene-fino mu ndia

Go to stop and listen there

154.

Ma dei-dongo mu ndia.

And go to stand and wait there.

155.

Udan tunga-tunga lasi

The rain passes through the forest

156.

Ma fa tunga-tunga le

And the current passes down the river

157.

Fo bonu boa fo mu

Then bobbing like boa wood, you may go

158.

Ele piko fo mu.’

And drifting like piko wood, you may go.’

The Shells’ Return to the Sea

Suti Solo do Bina Bane follows this advice and returns to the sea. It is only at this point in this recitation that Seu Ba’i proceeds to tell of the origin feast in the sea’s depths and the shaming of the two shells that occurs when Mouldy Pau Trees//Withered Kai Leaves attempts to dance beside Suti Solo do Bina Bane as ‘wife and spouse’. The Heavens grow angry and, as a result, the shells exude their insides, thus becoming the empty creatures that are found on the beaches and tidal flats of Rote. Seu Ba’i ends his recitation with a common formula that emphasises that what he has recounted has consequences ‘to this day and until this time’.

159.

Boe te sama leo halak

So precisely according to the voice

160.

Boe ma deta leo dasik

And exactly according to the speech

161.

Boe nene-fino neu ndia

He stops and listens there

162.

Ma dei-dongo mu ndia

And he stands and waits there

163.

Neu oli tatain

Goes to the estuary’s edge

164.

Ma neu le bibifan.

And goes to the river’s lip.

165.

Fa oek lali namo

The current’s water moves harbour

166.

Ma uda hedu(?) tunga le

And rain’s flow(?) follows the river

167.

Ma bonu boa de neu

And bobbing like boa wood, he goes

168.

Ma ele piko de neu

And drifting like piko wood, he goes

169.

Neu Liun dale na-taladan

Goes to the bounded ocean [depths]

170.

Neu Sain dale naka-ton.

And goes to the bordered sea [depths].

171.

Boe neu tongo lololo

Then he encounters with arms

172.

Ma neu nda lilima

And he meets with hands

173.

Mila-Ana Daik labun

Mila Ana Daik’s drum

174.

Ma O-Ana Selan mekon-na.

And O Ana Selan’s gong.

175.

Ala delu laka-ndu’un hu na

They strike a steady beat at the origin feast

176.

Ala sali laka-sasaän [sio-na].

And they beat a continuing flurry [at the feast of nine].

177.

Boe te ala fe Bina neu pela

Then they make Bina dance

178.

Ma ala fe Suti neu sodok.

And they make Suti sing.

179.

De Suti ta sodok nalelak

But Suti knows not how to sing

180.

Ma Bina ta longe nalelak.

And Bina knows not how to dance the ronggeng.

181.

Boe te Ina Po’o Pau Ai lasi

Then the woman Mouldy Pau Trees of the Forest

182.

Feto Latu Kai Do nulan

And the girl Withered Kai Leaves of the Woods

183.

Neu sodo do neu pela.

Goes to sing or goes to dance.

184.

De ana pela seli Suti Solo

She dances beside Suti Solo

185.

Ma ana leno seli Bina Bane.

And she turns beside Bina Bane.

186.

Boe te Suti bi neu dedein

But for Suti there is fear on his forehead

187.

Ma Bane mae neu mata-boan.

And for Bane there is shame in his eyes.

188.

Boe te halak esa nae neme dea neu ma nae:

But a voice speaks from outside and says:

189.

‘Ina Po’o Pau Ai lasi-la

‘The woman Mouldy Pau Trees of the Forest

190.

Do fetok Latu Kai Do nula-la

And the girl Withered Kai Leaves of the Woods

191.

De ala pela seli Suti Solo na ndia

She dances beside Suti Solo there

192.

Sanga na-seti [setu?] tu

Trying to appear intimate like a wife

193.

Ma ala leno seli Bina Bane na ndia

And she turns beside Bina Bane there

194.

Sanga na-hope sao.’

Trying to be close like a spouse.’

195.

Boe te halak-a leo Lain neu

But a voice goes to Heaven

196.

Ma dasik-kala leo Poi leu lae:

And speeches go to the Heights and it is said:

197.

Te Poin nggenggele

The Heights rage

198.

Ma Lain nama-nasa.

And the Heavens grow angry.

199.

Ala fe ni ledok kala mai [?]

[Unintelligible line]

200.

Poin neu nama-nasa

The Heights grow angry

201.

Ma Lain nggenggele.

And the Heavens rage.

202.

De luli nala liun dale

A storm strikes the ocean depths

203.

Ma sangu nala sain dale

And a cyclone strikes the sea depths

204.

Liun dale na-hopo

The ocean depths are upset

205.

Ma sain dale na-foki.

The sea depths are shaken.

206.

Boe te Suti nama-toko isi

So Suti expells his insides

207.

Ma Bina [nama-]edo nggi

And Bina exudes his pods

208.

Losa faik-ka

To this day

209.

Ma nduku ledok-ka.

And until this time.

Composition Analysis: Old Meno–Seu Ba’i comparisons

Seu Ba’i’s version of Suti Solo do Bina Bane consists of 209 lines and is composed of 85 dyadic sets, 49 of which are identical to those in Old Meno’s version of this composition. It is appropriate to begin by noting some of the common formulae used in both these compositions. These formulae are not specific to these two compositions but are among the most common formulae that occur in ritual language.

Similar Formulae

The first of these formulae is used to indicate the day’s dawn. In Seu Ba’i’s composition, this formula occurs early.

Seu Ba’i

17.

De siluk bei ta dulu

Morning is not yet in the east

18.

Ma hu’ak bei ta langa.

And dawn is not yet at the head.

Old Meno’s use of this formula occurs further on in his composition.

Old Meno

101.

Siluk bei ta dulu

When morning is not yet in the east

102.

Ma hu’ak bei ta langa dei

And dawn is not yet at the head

The formula is based on two dyadic sets: 1) siluk//hu’ak (‘morning’//‘dawn’); and 2) dulu//langa (‘east’//‘head’). The combination of ‘east’ and ‘head’ reflects the Rotenese directional system. Rote is a long, relatively narrow island. The eastern end of the island is conceived of as the island’s head (langa) and its western end its tail (iko). Although Rote is mostly flat, these directional coordinates imply that one goes ‘up’ to the east and ‘down’ to the west. In mortuary chants, the west is the direction of death: the ship of the dead sails westward to the afterworld.

Another formula used frequently in both compositions is perhaps the single most common formula used in virtually all compositions. Seu Ba’i uses this formula five times at different points in his composition. Three of these uses are identical: lines 91–92, 111–12 and 146–47; the two other uses are phrased with a slight change.

Seu Ba’i

91/111/146.

‘Malole ndia so

‘This is good

92/112/147.

Ma mandak ndia so.’

And this is proper.’

75.

‘De malole ndia so

‘This is good

76.

Do mandak ndia so.’

Or this is proper.’

Old Meno relies on this same formula, but in his composition, he uses the formula in its plural form.

Old Meno

144.

‘De malole-la so

‘These things are good

145.

Ma mandak-kala so.’

And these things are proper.’

161.

‘O malole-la so

‘Oh, these things are good

162.

Ma mandak-kala so.’

And these things are proper.’

Meno, however, also uses the malole//mandak set in another context:

274.

‘Sena mandak kia

‘This is a proper companion

275.

Ma tia malole ia.’

And this is a good friend.’

In addition to these common formulae, both poets use the same formula for speaking and make use of the same refrain that is a distinctive feature of Suti Solo do Bina Bane.

Old Meno

127.

Boe ma Suti, ana kokolak

Then Suti, he talks

128.

Ma Bina, ana dede’ak nae:

And Bina, he speaks, saying:

Seu Ba’i

89.

Boe te Bina, ana kokolak

But Bina, he talks

90.

Ma Suti, ana dede’ak, nae:

And Suti, he speaks, saying:

Where Meno phrases his refrain one way:

150.

‘Na Bina, au o se

‘Then I, Bina, with whom will I be

151.

Ma Suti, au o se

And I, Suti, with whom will I be

152.

Fo au kokolak o se

With whom will I talk

153.

Ma au dede’ak o se?’

And with whom will I speak?’

Seu Ba’i extends this refrain in another way:

96.

‘Au dede’ak o se …

‘With whom will I speak …

98.

Au kokolak o se

With whom will I talk

99.

De se’ek o se

Or be noisy with whom

100.

Ma oku-boluk o se’

And shout with whom’

Similarities in Differently Phrased Passages

There are various passages in Seu Ba’i’s composition that closely resemble those in Meno’s composition and yet follow a slightly different arrangement and use somewhat different dyadic sets. Several of these passages are worth careful examination for what they reveal about the processes of composition.

Preparing the Scoop-Net

Old Meno

83.

Ala kedi-la mau don

They cut a mau plant’s leaves

84.

De mau mana’a don

A mau with a mouthful of leaves

85.

Ma ala pena-la pole aban

And they pluck a pole plant’s cotton tufts

86.

De pole masapena aban.

A pole bursting with cotton tufts.

87.

De ala teli kokolo ndai

They string and wind a fishnet

88.

De ndai ma hamu lilok

A fishnet with a gold-weighted belly.

89.

Ma ala ane seko, bui seko

They braid a scoop-net, twine a scoop-net

90.

De seko ma tei besik.

A scoop-net with iron-weighted insides.

Seu Ba’i

5.

Boe te ala kedi-la mau-don-na

So they cut a mau plant’s leaves

6.

Ma ala pena-la pole-aban-na

And they pluck a pole plant’s cotton tufts

7.

Pole masa-fali pena

A pole with repeated cotton bolls

8.

Mau ma-na’a do-na.

A mau with a mouthful of leaves.

9.

Ala teli kokolo ndai

They string and wind a fishnet

10.

Ma ala ane balu-bui seko la

And they brand and twine scoop-nets

11.

Seko ma-tei besik

A scoop-net with iron-weighted insides

12.

Ma ndai ma-hamu lilok.

And a fishnet with a gold-weighted belly.

In these two passages, there is a host of similarities, although the arrangement of lines is different. For comparison, Seu Ba’i’s composition is in bold.

83.

Ala kedi-la mau don

They cut a mau plant’s leaves

5.

Boe te ala kedi-la mau-don-na

So they cut a mauplant’s leaves

85.

Ma ala pena-la pole aban

And they pluck a pole plant’s cotton tufts

6.

Ma ala pena-la pole-aban-na

And they pluck a pole plant’s cotton tufts

84.

De mau mana’a don

A mau with a mouthful of leaves

8.

Mau ma-na’a do-na.

A mau with a mouthful of leaves.

86.

De pole masa pena aban.

A pole bursting with cotton tufts.

7.

Pole masa-fali pena

A pole with repeated cotton bolls

Seu Ba’i’s line seven differs from that of Meno in a way that seems to violate the expected pairing of don//aban (‘leaves’//‘cotton tufts’). Moreover, masa-fali is not a term that normally pairs with mana’a; it implies a notion of ‘return’, which I have had to translate awkwardly as ‘repeated’. Comparison of the lines therefore suggests that this is probably a simple mistake in composition.

87.

De ala teli kokolo ndai

They string and wind a fishnet

9.

Ala teli kokolo ndai

They string and wind a fishnet

89.

Ma ala ane seko, bui seko

They braid a scoop-net, twine a scoop-net

10.

Ma ala ane balu-bui seko la

And they braid and twine scoop-nets

88.

De ndai ma-hamu lilok.

A fishnet with a gold-weighted belly.

12.

Ma ndai ma-hamu lilok.

And a fishnet with a gold-weighted belly.

90.

De seko ma-tei besik.

A scoop-net with iron-weighted insides.

11.

Seko ma-tei besik

A scoop-net with iron-weighted insides

The Sequence of Dialogue Directives

In both versions of Suti Solo do Bina Bane, Pedu Hange//Nggiti Seti offers the shells six distinct directives. These directives, however, differ. Four of these dialogue directives are similar but two are different and they are proposed in a different sequence.

In Meno’s version, the shells are directed first to: 1) Lole Holu//Lua Bafa as companion; and then in sequence to 2) syrup vat//rice basket, 3) millet grains//ears of maize, 4) palm shadow//tree shade, 5) boundary tree//border stone, and 6) forest cuckoo//river watercock, before following the passage of the rains and flow of the river to the sea.

In Seu Ba’i’s version, the shells are first taken home to: 1) cooking fire//upper house, which is, in some ways, the equivalent to being taken to Lole Holu//Lua Bafa, though in this version, the shells continue to cry for these two as companions. Thereafter they are directed to 2) syrup vat//rice basket, and 3) boundary tree//border stone. They are then directed to 4) kumea grass//kuku shrub, and finally to 5) forest cuckoo//river watercock, before drifting to the sea. Thus, in Seu Ba’i’s composition, the kumea grass//kuku shrub passage replaces palm shadow//tree shade.1

Of the four directives shared by these two compositions, it is most useful to compare similar passages in Pedu Hange//Nggiti Seti’s proposal to the shells to join the forest cuckoo and river watercock. It is the longest and, in terms of composition, the most complex of any of the directives. In Meno’s composition, this passage comprises 18 lines. In Seu Ba’i’s composition, this passage occurs in two parts, the first of which comprises 10 lines, the second eight lines.

Old Meno

204.

‘Mo doa lasi

‘Go with the forest cuckoo

205.

Ma mo koloba’o le

And go with the river watercock

206.

[Fo] fa tunga-tunga le

So that as current passes down the river

207.

Ma fo ela udan tunga-tunga lasi

And rain passes through the forest

208.

Fo mu oli tatain

You may go to the edge of the estuary

209.

Ma mu le bibifan,

And you may go to the lip of the river,

210.

Fo ela fa oek ana mai

So that when the current’s water arrives

211.

Ma ela epo oek ana mai

And when the eddy’s water arrives

212.

Na bonu boa fo mu

That bobbing like boa wood, you may go

213.

Ma ele piko fo mu,

And drifting like piko wood, you may go,

214.

Leo sain dale mu

To the sea, you may go

215.

Ma leo liun dale mu.

And to the ocean, you may go.

216.

Te hu mu posi makamu mekon

Thus go to the sea’s edge, resounding like a gong

217.

Fo nene fino tata

To stop and listen there

218.

Ma mu unu mali labun

And go to the reef, rumbling like a drum

219.

Fo dei dongo meme ndia

To stand and wait there

220.

Fo dei loe sain dale mu

And then descend into the ocean

221.

Ma dilu liun dale mu.’

And turn downward into the sea.’

Seu Ba’i

134.

‘Mu mo doa lasi

‘Go with the forest cuckoo

135.

Ma mu mo koloba’o le

And go with the river watercock

136.

Fo ba’o-ba’o tunga le

To [cry] ba’o-ba’o along the river

137.

Ma do-do tunga-tunga lasi

And do-do through the forest

138.

Fo udan tunga-tunga lasi

So when the rain passes through the forest

139.

Ma fa tunga-tunga le

And the current passes down the river

140.

Bonu boa fo mu

Then bobbing like boa wood, you may go

141.

Ma ele piko fo mu.

And drifting like piko wood, you may go.

142.

Leo sain mu

To the sea you may go

143.

Ma leo liun mu.’

And to the ocean you may go.’

151.

‘Mu le bibifan

‘Go to the lip of the river

152.

Ma mu oli tatain

And go to the edge of the estuary

153.

Nene-fino mu ndia

Go to stop and listen there

154.

Ma dei-dongo mu ndia.

And go to stand and wait there.

155.

Udan tunga-tunga lasi

The rain passes through the forest

156.

Ma fa tunga-tunga le

And the current passes down the river

157.

Fo bonu boa fo mu

Then bobbing like boa wood, you may go

158.

Ele piko fo mu.’

And drifting like piko wood, you may go.’

The first two lines in both compositions are similar. While Old Meno relies only on a verbal phrase, Seu Ba’i uses both verb and verbal phrase, which mean ‘to go’ and ‘to go with’.

204.

Mo doa lasi

Go with the forest cuckoo

134.

Mu mo doa lasi

Go with the forest cuckoo

205.

Ma mo koloba’o le

And go with the river watercock

135.

Ma mu mo koloba’o le

And go with the river watercock

Seu Ba’i then adds two lines that take their meaning from the sounds made by these birds.

136.

Fo ba’o-ba’o tunga le

To [cry] ba’o-ba’o along the river

137.

Ma do-do tunga tunga lasi

And do-do through the forest

The next lines are again virtually identical, though they occur in different order.

206.

[Fo] fa tunga-tunga le

So that as the current passes down the river

207.

Ma fo ela udan tunga-tunga lasi

And rain passes through the forest

138.

Fo udan tunga-tunga lasi

So when the rain passes through the forest

139.

Ma fa tunga-tunga le

And the current passes down the river

Meno then uses two lines as an embedded clause where Seu Ba’i renders these lines as a direct injunction in the second part of his dialogue with the shells.

208.

Fo mu oli tatain

You may go to the edge of the estuary

209.

Ma mu le bibifan.

And you may go to the lip of the river.

151.

Mu le bibifan

Go to the lip of the river

152.

Ma mu oli tatain

And go to the edge of the estuary

Meno then follows with two lines that Seu Ba’i does not use.

210.

Fo ela fa oek ana mai

So that when the current’s water arrives

211.

Ma ela epo oek ana mai

And when the eddy’s water arrives

Then both poets use the metaphor of two pieces of wood that float to the sea.2

212.

Na bonu boa fo mu

That bobbing like boa wood, you may go

213.

Ma ele piko fo mu

And drifting like piko wood, you may go,

214.

Leo sain dale mu

To the sea, you may go

215.

Ma leo liun dale mu.

And to the ocean, you may go.

140.

Bonu boa fo mu

Then bobbing like boa wood, you may go

141.

Ma ele piko fo mu.

And drifting like piko wood, you may go.

142.

Leo sain mu

To the sea you may go

143.

Ma leo liun mu.

And to the ocean you may go.

Meno then concludes this passage with six lines that invoke a common poetic formula that describes the sea’s edge pounding like a gong and the reef rumbling like a drum.3

216.

Te hu mu posi makamu mekon

Thus go to the sea’s edge, resounding like a gong

217.

Fo nene-fino tata

To stop and listen there

218.

Ma mu unu mali labun

And go to the reef, rumbling like a drum

219.

Fo dei-dongo meme ndia

To stand and wait there

220.

Fo dei loe sain dale mu

And then descend into the ocean

221.

Ma dilu liun dale mu.

And turn downward into the sea.

Among these six lines are two lines that Seu Ba’i uses in his composition.

153.

Nene-fino mu ndia

To stop and listen there

154.

Ma-dei dongo mu ndia.

And to stand and wait there.

Seu Ba’i then concludes his second passage of dialogue by repeating lines that he previously used in his first passage.

155.

Udan tunga-tunga lasi

The rain passes through the forest

156.

Ma fa tunga-tunga le

And the current passes down the river

157.

Fo bonu boa fo mu

Then bobbing like boa wood, you may go

158.

Ele piko fo mu.’

And drifting like piko wood, you may go.’

Although composed and arranged somewhat differently, in Seu Ba’i’s composition, 12 of 18 lines are nearly identical to those of his mentor, Old Meno.


1 Since these dialogue directives are one of the distinctive aspects of this composition, the way different poets phrase these passages will be a continuing focus of subsequent chapters. Here only one passage has been selected for this comparison between Seu Ba’i and Old Meno.

2 Although I have not yet been able to identify these species of trees, poets have told me that both are light and buoyant and can often be seen as driftwood on the waters.

3 Although Seu Ba’i does not use this formula in his composition, it is a common formula that regularly occurs in other ritual compositions.


Previous Next