Part 1: On humility, self-control, self-knowledge, self-respect, and self-restraint
Ọbẹ̀ kì í gbé inú àgbà mì.
A stew does not slush around once inside an elder.
(An elder should know how to keep confidences.)
Ọ̀bún ríkú ọkọ tìrànmọ́; ó ní ọjọ́ tí ọkọ òún ti kú òun ò fi omi kan ara.
The filthy person takes advantage of her husband's death for blame; she says since her husband died she has not violated her person with water.
(Shiftless people will latch on any excuse to shirk duties.)
Ọ̀gà-ǹ-gà lọmọ-ọ̀ mi ńjẹ́, ẹ má pe ọmọ-ọ̀ mi ní Ògò-ǹ-gò mọ́! Èwo lorúkọ rere níbẹ̀?
My child's name is Ọ̀gàǹgà; don't you call my child Ògòǹgò any more! Which of the two is a good name.
(A choice between two bad things is no choice at all.)
Ọ̀gẹ̀gẹ́ ò lẹ́wà; lásán ló fara wéṣu.
The poisonous cassava has no attraction; it resembles a yam only in vain.
(No imitation can be as good as the real thing.)
Ọjọ́ àgbà-á kú sàn ju ọjọ́ àgbà-á tẹ́.
The day an elder dies is far better than the day an elder is disgraced.
(Death is preferable to disgrace.)
Compare Orí àgbà-á níyì, ó sàn ju orí àgbà-á fọ́ lọ.
Ọjọ́ kan là ḿbàjẹ́, ọjọ́ gbogbo lara ńtini.
Only one day brings disgrace to a person; the shame is felt every day.
(The thoughtless act of a moment mars one's reputation for a long time.)
See the following entry.
Ọjọ́ kan ṣoṣo là ńtẹ́; ojoojúmọ́ lojú ńtini.
It takes one day only for one to disgrace oneself; the shame is a daily affair.
(Fleeting indiscretion have lasting effects.)
See the preceding entry.
Ọjọ́ tí alákàn-án ti ńṣepo, kò kún orùbà.
In all the days the crab has been making oil, it has not filled a pot.
(Said of people who have labored long but have nothing to show for all their effort.)
“Ọjọ́ tí mo ti ḿbọ̀ ng ò rírú ẹ̀ rí”: olúwa ẹ̀-ẹ́ mọ ìwọ̀n ara ẹ̀ ni.
“In all the days I have walked this earth I have never seen the like”: that person knows his place.
(If one knows one's place one will be spared humiliation.)
Ọ̀kánjúwà àgbà ní ńsọ ara ẹ̀ dèwe.
It is an avaricious elder that turns himself into a child.
(An elder who cannot control his appetite asks to be treated like a child.)
Ọ̀kánjúwà alágbaà ní ńgarùn wo eégún.
It is an insatiable chief of the masqueraders cult that stands on tiptoes to watch a performing masquerader.
(It is unseemly to be too greedy, especially when everything is at one's disposal anyway.)
Ọkùnrin kì í ké, akọ igi kì í ṣoje.
A man does not cry; hardwood does not ooze sap.
(Fortitude is the mark of a man.)
Ọlọgbọ́n kan ò ta kókó omi sáṣọ; ọ̀mọ̀ràn kan ò mọ oye erùpẹ̀ ilẹ̀.
No wise man ever ties water in a knot in his cloth; no knowledgeable person can tell the number of grains of sand on the earth.
(There are certain feats that are beyond even the most accomplished of men.)
Ọlọgbọ́n ò tẹ ara ẹ̀ nÍfá; ọ̀mọ̀ràn ò fi ara ẹ̀ joyè; abẹ tó mú ò lè gbẹ́ èkù ara ẹ̀.
The wise person does not consult the Ifá oracle for himself; the knowledgeable person does not install himself a chief; the sharp knife does not carve its own handle.
(The strongest and wisest of men still would need the service of other people some time.)
Ọmọ àì-jọbẹ̀-rí tí ńja epo sáyà.
A child new to eating stews: he shows himself by dripping palm-oil on his chest.
(Upstarts will betray themselves by their misuse of their new-found fortune.)
Ọmọ onílẹ̀ á tẹ̀ ẹ́ jẹ́jẹ́.
The owner of the earth treads gently on it.
(Responsible people do not always do as they can, but behave as is proper.)
Ọmọ ọba Ọ̀nà Ìṣokùn ńfi ehín gé ejò, ọmọ ọba kan-án ní òun kì í jẹ ẹ́; ìlú wo lọmọ ọba náà-á ti wá?
The prince of Ọ̀na Ìṣokùn is sharing out snake meat with his teeth, and another prince says he does not eat such a thing; where did that prince come from?
(If your betters are reduced to an expedient, you would be foolish to say it is beneath you.)
Ọmọdé dáwọ́tilẹ̀, ó ní òún tó ọ̀bọ; bó tó ọ̀bọ, ó tó gẹ̀gẹ̀ àyàa ẹ̀?
A child rests his hand on the earth and claims it is as big as a monkey “read chimpanzee”; even if the child is as big as a monkey, is its chest as big as the monkey's?
(Equality is more than mere physical resemblance.)
Ọmọdé ní ẹẹ́ta lọ́wọ́, ó ní kí Èṣù wá ká ṣeré owó; ẹẹ́ta-á ha tó Èṣùú sú epo lá?
A child has three cowries in hand and challenges Èṣù to a game played for money; will three solitary cowries suffice for Èṣù to purchase palm-oil to lick?
(People who come into some money for the first time are wont to overestimate their sudden worth.)
Ọ̀mùtí gbàgbé ìṣẹ́, alákọrí gbàgbé ọ̀la.
The drunkard ignores his misery; the ill-fated person forgets tomorrow.
(Irresponsible people often indulge themselves instead of taking care of their pressing problems.)
Ọ̀nà ọ̀fun ò gba egungun ẹja.
The throat cannot accommodate fish-bone.
(Everybody and everything has some limitation.)
Ọ̀ràn ò dun ọmọ ẹṣin; a mú ìyá ẹ̀ so, ó ńjẹ oko kiri.
Problems make hardly any impression on the foal of a horse; its mother is tied down but it grazes nonchalantly about.
(Said of people who show no concern for the afflictions of those close to them.)
Ọ̀rọ̀ bọ̀tí-bọ̀tí ò yẹ àgbàlagbà.
Speech like drunken babble does not befit a venerable person.
(Responsible adults should be very careful about what they say.)
Ọ̀rọ̀ ò dùn lẹ́nu ìyá olè.
Speech is not pleasant in the mouth of the mother of a thief.
(There is little a miscreant can say that will impress people.)
Ọ̀rọ̀ wo ló wà lẹ́nu alaṣọ pípọ́n?
What sort of speech can there be in the mouth of the person whose clothes are brown from dirt?
(People with blemishes should keep a low profile.)
Ọ̀sán pọ́n o ò ṣán ẹ̀kọ; oòrún kan àtàrí o ò jẹ àmàlà; àlejò-ó wà bà ọ ní ìyẹ̀tàrí oòrùn o ò rí ǹkan fún un; o ní “Njẹ́ ng ò níí tẹ́ lọ́wọ́ ẹ̀ báyìí”? O ò tíì tẹ́ lọ́wọ́ ara ẹ, ká tó ṣẹ̀ṣẹ̀ wá wípé o ó tẹ̀ẹ́ lọ́wọ́ ẹlòmíràn tàbí o ò níí tẹ́?
The sun rises and you do not eat corn meal; the sun moves directly overhead and you do not eat yam-flour meal; a visitor arrives for you when the sun is just past the overhead position and you have nothing to entertain him with; and you ask, “Am I not in danger of being disgraced in his eyes”? Aren't you already disgraced in your own eyes? Never mind whether you may be disgraced in others' eyes or not.
(What one thinks of oneself is every bit as important as what others think of one.)
Ọ̀ṣìn ò lè mú àwòdì òkè; Bámidélé lọ̀ṣín lè mú.
The fish-eagle cannot catch the kite flying on high; it can only catch Bamidele.
(Said of people who will confront only weaklings rather than people who match them in strength.)
Ọ̀ṣọ́ ọlọ́ṣọ̀ọ́ ò yẹni; ṣòkòtò àgbàbọ̀ ò yẹ́ ọmọ èèyàn.
One never looks good in other people's finery; borrowed trousers do not fit the borrower.
(One should not be a habitual borrower.)
Ọwọ́ àìdilẹ̀ ní ńyọ koríko lójú àna ẹ̀.
Idle hands are the ones obliged to remove grass specks from their in-law's eyes.
(People who are unemployed can expect to be asked to perform all sorts of belittling tasks.)
Ọ̀wọ́n là ńra ògo, ọ̀pọ̀ là ńra ọ̀bùn, iyekíye là ńra ìmẹ́lẹ́.
Honor is always bought dear, filthiness cheap, and idleness at an indifferent price.
(Nothing is more difficult to come by than honor.)
Ọ̀yájú-u baálé ní ńpàdé ìbòsí lọ́nà.
It is a reckless home owner who is met with alarms when he ventures outside.
(A patriarch who misbehaves earns disgrace.)
86. Èṣù is the unpredictable god in the Yorùbà pantheon, his favorite food is palm-oil.
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87. Bámidélé is a male name. The proverb is probably based on the play between ọ̀ṣín, the name for the vulturine fish-eagle, and Ọṣìn, a male name that is sometimes used as a designation for a king. Bámidélé (which means “Come home with me”) indicates that the possible prey is one that is readily at hand.
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