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1/08/2013

Guillen's Sensemaya

I remember the first time we were learning Guillen's very rhythmic and upbeat Sensemaya  in my primary school class in Jamaica. All the kids in the class were giggling, because the words "mayombe bombe" sound similar to a popular Jamaican curse word. The poor teacher had such a hard time getting us to settle down and focus on learning the poem. Here is Sensemaya in the original Spanish, with the English translation below:

Sensemaya

Canto para matar a una culebra.

Mayombe - bombe - mayombe!
Mayombe - bombe - mayombe!
Mayombe - bombe - mayombe!

La culebra tiene los ojos de vidrio;
la culebra viene y se enreda en un palo;
con sus ojos de vidrio, en un palo,
con sus ojos de vidrio.

La culebra camina sin patas;
la culebra se esconde en la yerba;
caminando se esconde en la yerba,
caminando sin patas.

Mayombe - bombe - mayombe!
Mayombe - bombe - mayombe!
Mayombe - bombe - mayombe!

Tu le das con el hacha y se muere:
dale ya!
No le des con el pie, que tu muerde,
no le des con el pie, que se va!

Sensemaya, la culebra,
sensemaya.
Sensemaya, con sus ojos,
sensemaya.
Sensemaya, con su lengua,
sensemaya.
Sensemaya, con su boca,
sensemaya.

English Translation:

Sensemaya

Chant for killing a small snake

Mayombe - bombe - mayombe!
Mayombe - bombe - mayombe!
Mayombe - bombe - mayombe!

The small snake has eyes of glass;
the small snake comes, curls round a stick;
with its eyes of glass, around a stick,
with its eyes of glass.

The small snake walks with no feet;
the small snake hides in the grass;
walking it hides in the grass,
walking with no feet.

Mayombe - bombe - mayombe!
Mayombe - bombe - mayombe!
Mayombe - bombe - mayombe!

You strike it with an axe and it dies:
strike it now!
Don't kick it with your foot, for it bites,
don't kick it with your foot, it will escape!

Sensemaya, the snake,
sensemaya.
Sensemaya, with its eyes,
sensemaya.
Sensemaya, with its tongue,
sensemaya.
Sensemaya, with its mouth,
sensemaya.
 

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