Qəne & Language

2 Qəne and Language


Most Qənes are composed in Gəʾəz, and most students at Qəne school start their education by learning the basics of the Gəʾəz language. Now the question is, can Qəne be composed in any local language similar to most traditional poetry? Or is it limited to the Gəʾəz language?


I think most Qənes are composed in Gəʾəz since Qəne rules regarding the Säm əna Wärq mode and metrical pattern are set up for the Gəʾəz language. But once we follow the right metrical pattern and rules of metaphor, one can compose Qəne in other languages. For Example in Amharic, Afaan Oromo, English …etc.


One can see the advent of Guramayle  Qəne (a blend of Gəʾəz and Amharic) and Amharic Qənes starting from the Gondarine Period (17th to 19th century) as can be seen from the following Guramayle Qəne.


1፡ Mäwädəs [1]

ካህነ ቀላዋጭ ኢትናቅ ምጥዋ ነጋዴ፤

ወኢትስደብ ካዕበ ገበራርተ ዐራሽ በበሬ፣

አምጣነ ትትቀሠፍ አንተ በቀጠና ረኃብ ማሰሬ፣

ወኢይኩን ሰማዕተ ሐሰት ኤልያስ ነገሬ፣

ናሁ እንበለ ፍሬ፣

በእሳተ ረኃብ ውዕዩ አኀዊከ ደቂቀ ቆሬ፣

አነሂ ሰማንያ አንድ መጻሕፍተ አበው ተምሬ፣

አመልክ በነጋዴ ወእሰግድ ለገበሬ፣

እስመ እምዘደንቢያ ዐራሽ ወእምነጋዲያን ዘትግሬ፣

እቀላውጥ አንድ እንጀራ ወእለምን ድርጎ ጥሬ፡፡

Freeloader Priest, do not look down upon the merchant of Məts’wa

And do not insult the farmers who plough with oxen

Because you will be smitten by a state of hunger/switch

And let my concern/ Elijah not become a false witness

Now without any fruit

Your brothers/sons of Qore were scorched by the fire of starvation.

And me after learning the entire Bible and Patristic books

I worship the merchant and bow down to the farmer

Because from the peasant of Dämbəya and merchants of Təgre

I will sponge an ʾənjära and beg for cereals.




Even though the BaläQəne has studied the 81 books[3] including the Patristic writings, he is not able to make a living. Thus he is transgressing the first commandment forbidding the worship of other gods by bowing down to the merchant of Tigre and to the farmer of Dämbəya in order to get some cereals and ʾənjära.


The following Qəne is composed in its entirety in Amharic:

2፡ Mäwädəs [4]

ከነቅዱስ ያሬድ ሆቴል ገብተው የሚጠጡ፣

ጣእም ያለውን ቢራ ምስጢር በየ ሰዓቱ በየ ሰዓቱ፣

ሊቃውነተ ጎጃም ያሬድ የሚያስከብራቸው በእውቀቱ፣

ከኢትዮጵያ እስከ አሜሪካ አያልቅም ቢቀዳ ቢቀዳ መወድስ ድራፍቱ፣

የሚቀርብ ሁለጊዜ በነቅዱስ ያሬድ ሆቴል እየተዘጋጀ ለሊቃውንቱ፡፡

ምስጢርምሂ ጣእም ያለው ቢራ ሁሉን የሚያስደስት ጥራቱ፣

ቀረበ ለያንዳንዱ በፊት በፊቱ፣

እንዲቀርብ አሁን አዘዋልና በቤቱ፣

ጉባኤ ቃና ወመወድስ ክቡራን መኳንንቱ፡፡


        Those who enter St. Yared’s Hotel

        To drink tasty beer / secret (Qəne) by the hour

        the scholars of Gojjam/ Yared  are respected for their knowledge

        And the Mäwädəs / lager will not cease flowing from Ethiopia to America

        Since it is prepared frequently for scholars at St. Yared’s Hotel.

        And the secret (Qəne) / tasty beer with satisfying quality

        Is served to each and everyone

        Since it has been ordered to serve

        Gubaʾe Qana and Mäwädəs by respected personages. 




Usually those who go to a first-rate hotel (bar) for drinks are served with the beer or lager according to their preference. Here what is symbolized as a hotel is the Qəne School Of Ch’ägode  Hana and the owner of the hotel is the teacher Liqä Liqawənt Yared Shiferraw. Just as the drinks keep on flowing at the bar, the well constructed Qənes from Gubaʾe Qana to Mäwädəs are composed non-stop at the Ch’ägode  Hana Qəne School.                   


This Qəne was composed impromptu by a Zärafi when I was visiting the school and asked for a recital of  memorized Qənes. It was easier for the students to compose a new Qəne rather than recite a memorized Qəne from the past.


Some Qənes are a blend of  Gəʾəz and English. Here is an example blending Gəʾəz, Amharic and English:


        3፡ Mäwädəs [5]

ኦ ብራዘርስ ውሉደ ጥምቀት፣

እንተ በጉጓዔ ንትጋባ ውስተ ታዕካ ዘቅድስና፣

መና ቃለወንጌል ቅዱስ እስመ በዛቲ አለና፣

ፎር ዘ ሴክ ኦፍ ሳቲስፋይንግ ኢንተረስተ ውሉድ በጥዑም መና፣

ወይነ ምስጋና ዘመላእከት ውስቴታ ተቀድሃ ከመ ከመ ያስተፍስህ የሰው ልቡና፣

ኸርትሂ የገበሬ እርሻ እንዳያገኛት ሙስና፣

ይዝነም ቃለ ወንጌል በፍቅር ወበትህተና፣

እስመ ዝናመ ጽድቅ ተርዕየ በዘጳውሎስ ደመና፣

ወደቂቀ ጳውሎስ አእዋም አህመልመሉ በዳኅና፡፡


Oh Brothers, children of Baptism

Let us hurry and enter the hall of Holiness

Because inside there is Manna / words of the Gospel

And to satisfy the interest of the children with tasty Manna

The Angels’ gratitude / wine was poured to satisfy man’s conscience.

And so that the farm/heart is not corrupted

Let the words of the Gospel trickle with love and humility

Because the rain of righteousness was seen in the clouds of Paul

And the children of Paul / trees blossomed well. 





For the Säm, it is normal for people to rush towards a banquet hall where good food and drinks are being served. Comparatively, the BaläQəne advises his brothers (members of the MahəBärä Qədusan(MQ) organization) to rush towards the gates of the church where one can find food for the soul – words from the gospel and angelic voices of gratitude. In the second half, the BaläQəne recounts that without rain the farmer will lose all that he has planted. But observing the presence of rain clouds, the farmer will plant his seeds and when it rains all the plants will blossom. For the Wärq, the BaläQəne advises the MQ members to listen to the words of the gospel with love and humility. And the members are overjoyed because Patriarch Paulos, disregarding those advising him to close down the MQ association, allowed the association to continue doing its work.

Even though not well developed, one can compose Qəne in Afaan Oromo. Here is one by ʾäläqa Zäwälde mixing Afaan Oromo with Amharic:

4፡ Səllase [6]

አርካ ኬቴ ሁንዱማ ጨብሴ፣

ሌንጫ ጎፍታኮ ኢጆሌ ሌንጫ፣

አሁንም የእውነት ግሩም አንበሳ የአንበሳ ኮርማ የቢያ፣

በክንድህ ሰበርኸው የሁሉን ሶማያ፡፡

ዱጉማ ጎፍታኮ ዱጉማ አሲ መና ኬቲ ገበያ (ገደ በያ)፣

ሀሬ ጉደቴ ፈርዳን ፉለያ፣

ማሎ ማሎ ጎፍታ ኪያ!

መና ፈርዳ ፉደቴ አህያ፡፡


My Lord Your arm was all broken

By a lion son of a lion

And now you the real terrifying one, the country’s lion

        You broke all their armaments.

        Truly my lord, within your house / marketplace

        While the donkey was honored, horses were disregarded

        Why is it my lord!

        That the donkey has taken over the horse’s abode?   



Just as a lion with his strength overpowers all animals, Emperor Menelik defeated all his enemies to become a sovereign. Also just like a muscular person breaks a stick easily, Menelik foiled the wishes of the nobility with ease. Since a horse is a finer animal, it is unusual to see a donkey being treated better than a horse. Likewise, the BaläQəne is chiding Emperor Menelik for rewarding others when there are those of noble birth.    


The above Qənes prove that the belief that Qəne can be composed only in Gəʾəz is mistaken and that other languages can be equally utilized. I believe in the near future Qənes will be composed in English!     

[1] Anonymous, From a student at Ch’agode Hanna

[2] Commentary on the Qəne – explaining the Säm əna Wärq

[3] The EOTC Bible

[4] Märigeta Elyas፣ ጨጎዴ ሐና ቅኔ ቤት፡፡

[5] መሪጌታ ይቻለዋል ጎሹሜ (1986)፣ አዲሰ አበባ የማኅበረ ቅዱሳን 1ኛ ጠቅላላ ጉባዔ አዳር ፕሮግራም ላይ፡፡

[6] የኢትዮጵያ ቋንቋዎች አካዳሚ (19;;) የግዕዝ ቅኔያት የሥነ ጥበባት ቅርስ ንባቡ ከነትርጓሜው፣ ገጽ 389.