Some were definitely bored when the teacher made them recite “The ploughman and his sons” by French poet Jean de La Fontaine. Someone was surely waiting to become an adult to exact their revenge.
Indeed, since recently, one can see a slang version of this poem which many learned by heart while attending primary school. The meaning of calling to work has not really changed in this slang recitation made in Cameroon.
The author remains in anonymity. However, the words in his text are known and understood by all…at least, for those who are familiar with camfranglais. For dummies, here is the translation in simple English:
The ploughman and his sons
A wealthy ploughman drawing near his end
Call’d in his sons apart from every friend
And said, “when of your sire bereft, the heritage our fathers left
Guard well, nor sell a single field A treasure in it is conceal’d:
The place, precisely, I don’t know,
But industry will serve to show. The harvest past,
Time’s forelock take,
And search with plough, and spade, and rake; turn over every inch of sod,
Nor leave unsearch’d a single clod.”
The father died.
The sons – and not in vain—
Turn’d o’er the soil, and o’er again;
That year their acres bore
More grain than e’er before.
Though hidden money found they none,
Yet had their father wisely done,
To show by such a measure,
That toil itself is treasure.”