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Part 1: On humility, self-control, self-knowledge, self-respect, and self-restraint


Má tẹ̀ẹ́ lọ́wọ́ oníle, má tẹ̀ẹ́ lọ́wọ́ àlejò; lọ́wọ́ ara ẹni la ti ńtẹ́.
Save face with members of your household and save face with complete strangers, such a person loses face with himself/herself.
(A person too careful about his/her reputation will end up losing regard for himself/herself. Some situations call for doing away with decorum.)

Màlúù ò lè lérí níwájú ẹṣin.
A cow may not boast in the presence of a horse.
(One should acknowledge and defer to those better able than oneself.)

Mànàmáná ò ṣéé sun iṣu.
Lightning is no good for roasting yams.
(Many instances of boasting lack the substance to back them.)

“M̀bá wà lỌ́yọ̀ọ́ mà ti so ẹṣin”; àgùntàn-an rẹ̀ á níye nílẹ̀yí.
“Were I at Ọ̀yọ́ I would own a horse by now”: he should have numerous sheep to his name in this town.
(What a person accomplished in his/her present circumstances is a good indication of what the person has the potential to do in more favorable circumstances.)

Mélòó lÈjìgbò tí ọ̀kan ẹ̀ ńjẹ́ Ayé-gbogbo?
How large a community is Ejigbo that one of its settlements is named Ayegbogbo “The whole world”?
(One should be modest in one's claims.)

Mo dàgbà mo dàgó, aré ọmọdé ò tán lójúù mi.
I have become old and wise, but childish play has not ceased to appeal to me.
(There is something of the youth that lingers even in age.)
Compare the following proverb.

Mo dàgbà tán èwé wù mí.
Having grown old I miss youthfulness.
(One does not appreciate one's youth until one has lost it.)
Compare the preceding entry.

“Mo dára, mo dára,” àìdára ní ńpẹ̀kun ẹ̀.
“I am beautiful, I am beautiful!” has ugliness as its conclusion.
(Whoever is infatuated with his or her attractiveness will end up being despised by all.)

“Mo gbọ́n tán, mo mọ̀ràn tán” kì í jẹ́ kí agbọ́n lóró bí oyin.
“I am all-wise, I am all-knowing” kept the wasp from having as much venom as the bee.
(Whoever will not listen to instruction will learn nothing.) [68]
Compare “Mo mọ̀-ọ́ gùn” . . .
and also “Mo mọ̀-ọ́ gún,” . . .
“Mo mọ̀-ọ́ tán,” . . .
and “Mo mỌ̀bàrà . . .”

“Mo mọ̀-ọ́ gùn” lẹṣin ńdà.
“I am an expert horseman” is usually the one thrown by a horse.
(Assuming that one knows it all it causes one grief.)
Compare “Mo gbọ́n tán, . . . ”
“Mo mọ̀-ọ́ tan,”. . .
“Mo mỌ̀bàrà . . .”
and the following entry.

“Mo mọ̀-ọ́ gún, mo mọ̀-ọ́ tẹ̀” niyán ewùrà-á fi ńlẹ́mọ.
“I know how to pound and I know how to marsh” is what causes pounded yam made with wateryam to be lumpy.
(Knowing it all can be disastrous.)
Compare the preceding entry,
also “Mo gbọ́n tan, . . . ”
“Mo mọ̀-ọ́ tán,” . . .
and “Mo mỌ̀bàrà . . .”

“Mo mọ̀-ọ́ tán” lOrò-ó fi ńgbé ọkùnrin.
“I know it all” is the reason for Orò's carrying a man away.
(Knowing it all leads to disaster.) [69]
Compare “Mo gbọ́n tán, . . . ”
and “Mo mỌ̀bàrà...”

“Mo mỌ̀bàrà mo mỌ̀fún” ti kì í jẹ́ kí àwòko kọ́ ọ̀pẹ́ẹ̀rẹ́ nÍfá.
“I am versed in Ọ"bàrà and versed in Ọ̀fún,” the boast that discourages àwòko from teaching ọ̀pẹ́ẹ̀rẹ́ Ifá verses.
(Disdain for advise or instruction leaves a person in ignorance.)
Compare “Mo gbọ́n tan, . . . ”
“Mo mọ̀-ọ́ gùn, . . .”
and “Mo mọ̀-ọ́ tán,” . . .

“Mo mọ̀wọ̀n ara-à mi” kì í ṣẹ̀rẹ̀kẹ́ èébú.
“I am jealous of my dignity” does not hurl insults at others.
(A person who wishes to maintain his dignity must not by his/her actions invite insults.)

“Mo yó” ńjẹ́ “mo yó,” “mo kọ̀” ńjẹ́ “mo kọ̀”; jẹun ǹṣó, àgbà ọ̀kánjúwà ni.
“I am full” means “I am full”; “I decline” means “I decline”; eating with abandon, that is the father of all greediness.
(One should not accept every invitation to the table.)


68. The idea is that the bee listened attentively to instructions on how to pack venom in its sting, but the wasp thought it knew it all.  [Back to text]


69. Orò is a secret divinity connected with the secret supreme political and juridical council known as Ògbóni or Òṣùgbo. His public outings are announced by the bull-roarer, at the sound of which women must go into hiding. A man who is not a member of the cult also runs the risk of being killed if he intrudes into its rites even accidentally.  [Back to text]