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


bj j kan tn br.
The disgrace one incurs in one day does not disappear that soon.
(Reputations are easy to destroy but most difficult to repair.)

Ibi t a b p lr, a k fi tl.
Whatever one names as the head, one does not tread the floor with it.
(Never misuse or abuse your prized possessions or attributes.)

Ibi t a fi ara s lara gb.
Wherever one situates the body, there it inhabits.
(One should confine oneself and one's activities to the appropriate spheres.)
See Ibi t a fi iy s...

Ibi t a fi iy s l omi s.
Salt dampens only the place where it is placed.
(One should confine one's activities to the proper arena.)
See Ibi t a fi ara s . . .

Ibi t a p lr n hurun.
The part one names the head is the one that grows hair.
(One should act in accordance to one's station.)

Ibi t a ti m l knn; ibi t a ti m algbra t oko- ro.
The place where a lazy person was apprehended bears no marks; the place where a powerful man was apprehended is broad enough to plant a farm.
(A worthy person, even if eventually vanquished, will leave signs of powerful resistance behind.)

Ibi t a ti ptn k t jogn, k m p ogn ib kanni.
Where one must recite genealogies in order to establish one's claim to inheritance, one should know that one really has no claim to patrimony there.
(One need not go to great lengths to establish one's claim if it is legitimate.)

Ibi t ay b ni ni a ti j .
Where life catches up with one, there one lives it.
(One lives according to the conditions one finds oneself in.)

bn dd olw l n kwf rn rn rn k s d n.
It is the master's engaging in silly antics that affords the pawn the opportunity to laugh so hard that he tosses his cutlass away.
(If the person in charge behaves irresponsibly, then those over whom he/she has charge have an excuse for irresponsible behavior also.)

Id ahun la fi pa ahun.
It is with its own sword that one kills the tortoise.
(Each person carries his/her own bane around with him/her.) [53]
Compare d nik gbn . . .

Id w il ara n n ba k j.
The sword is destroying its own home, and it says it is ruining the scabbard.
(Said of a person whose actions will eventually recoil on him/her, even though the person thinks that he/she is hurting others.)

d mjj t olwa r- jk.
The two buttocks are sufficient for their owner to sit on.
(One should be satisfied with one's own resources.)

Ignnugn b l rl; oj t il t oko.
The vulture perches on the roof; its eyes see the homestead as well as the farm.
(Said of a busybody whose eyes get into everything.)

gb t gd b f e er t a n k wn gb un sj.
When the clay statue hankers for disgrace it asks to be placed in the rain.
(A person who so forgets himself/herself and overreaches himself/herself will wind up in disgrace.) [54]

gb wo ni Mk n k? Mk m awo b pa; Mk m w b sd.
When will (or how can) Maku avoid the danger of dying? Maku does not know the mysteries of the cult yet he joins in its vows; Maku does not know how to swim and yet he jumps into the river.
(A person who will not cooperate in safeguarding himself/herself frustrates the efforts of others.) [55]

Ih wo lkt gb t n i il dw?
What sort of hole does the rat live in that makes him say that household work preoccupied it?
(One should not oversell oneself.)

jkm k rin sn, ni a b ire k rin ru.
The wild cat never roams in daylight; a well-bred person does not wander around in the night time.
(People who care about their reputation should stay away from questionable actions.)

jl l gb kta.
The brown ant cannot lift a boulder.
(One should not attempt a task that is beyond one's capability.)

jok ni n mni da ew k n.
How one sits causes one to carry the leaves used to wrap corn-meal to the dump.
(People treat one the way one presents oneself.) [56]

jba p o n mu gr lw; ta n ni , ta n ni omi t o fi mu gr?
The government summons you and you say you are busy eating cassava grains soaked in water; who owns you, and who owns the water with which you are eating the cassava?
(When the law summons, one has no option but to heed the summon.)

Il-ni-mo-w k jbi j.
I-was-in-my-home is never the guilty party in a dispute.
(One does not get into trouble by minding one's own business.)

Il k j k bal il tkak.
A house does not burn while the landlord lounges with indifference.
(One must not ignore matters of grave concern to one.)
Compare the following entry)

Il k j k oorun kun oj.
A house does not burn and fill the eyes with sleep.
(One must not ignore grave matters.)
Compare the previous entry.

l kan t gn j; b a b l fn un a ma lu y.
One drum is not enough for an gn person to dance to; if one drums for him he too will play a rhythm on his chest.
(Said of a person who is never satisfied with whatever other do for him/her, but must make some adjustment him/herself.)

In j giri s, w gb gr gr smi.
Fire burns and the wall does not run from it; now it moves threateningly towards water.
(A person who is powerless against others should not make threatening moves.)

In burk lgb n, gb k n oj burk.
An unpleasant inside is what a venerable elder should have; a venerable elder should not have an unpleasant mien.
(One should not permit the way one really feels to push one into unseemly behavior.)

Ipa gb n sn; ipa ohn k sn.
The wound left by a cutlass may heal, but the wound left by speech does not heal.
(Injury inflicted through speech is impossible to heal.)

pk onpk l r; enilni n r tni.
One sees only other peoples' occiputs; only others can see one's own.
(One usually pays closer attention to other people's faults than to one's own, while others are quite aware of one's faults.)

ppj n enini; gblagb irngbn e l.
The eyelashes do not make dew; a venerable old beard does not behave like an ingenue.
(Some habits are fitting for one's station, while others are not.)

rj s nnu ft; b o b e jk ni o b ara- r.
There is no cheating in photography; it is just as you sit that you will find your image.
(One's public perception depends ultimately on one's self-presentation.)

Ir a tn nnu .
The likeness of a particular type of cloth is not lacking among those in fashion.
(No one has a monopoly of certain qualities.)
Compare the following entry.

Ir erin tn n l.
The likeness of an elephant is not scarce in Al. [57]
(Nobody is one of a kind.)
Compare the preceding entry.

rkr k yan If ld; oge, dr o k mi.
The horse-tail whisk does not shun If; high-fashion maiden, pause awhile and give me a greeting.
(One should not neglect to say hello to other people.) [58]

ss y gn; ss k kwo b.
The fugitive does not stop to pull a thorn from his/her feet; the fugitive does not stop to clear dinner dishes.
(A person who has committed a crime would not wait around to be caught.)

ti ibkan m ni; y tibkan j yn; b o b rnrn , b o b oj wl, igb-kgb ni wn fi bu omi fn mu.
Destitution does not attach to one at a particular place; suffering does not attack a person at a particular place; if one walks like a wretch into a town, if one looks like a loser when one enters a town, it is with a miserable calabash that the people will offer one water to drink.
(People treat one the way one presents oneself.)

tkn t t p k t p krin m l; tkn t p krin m l l, tun terin n l.
A vine as thick as a palm-tree trunk will not stop an elephant; whatever vine attempts to stop an elephant from going to Al will go with the elephant instead.
(A powerless person will not stop a mighty person from doing what he wants; if he attempts to he invites suffering for himself.)

w n j onw lj.
Character is always remarkable (or good) in the opinion of its owner.
(One naturally approves of one's own character.)

wf n m wf j.
A pawned person always dances with a pawned person.
(People should know who share their station and confine their dealings with them.)

wn eku nwn t; olongo k gb tmtm.
The measure of the rat is the measure of the nest; a robin does not live on a cushion.
(One should cut one's garment according to one's size.)

ws n Xba il gb j.
Trading insults brings ruin to an elder's home.
(An elder who fails to maintain harmony among the members of his household will see it destroyed.)

yw t na m bkan, r l f gb.
The wife who whips a relative of her husband is asking for stern rebuke.
(One should not engage in inappropriate actions.) [59]


53. Customarily, the tortoise is killed by pulling its neck and rubbing it against the sharp edge of its shell behind the neck until it comes apart. That part of the shell is known as the tortoise's sword.  [Back to text]


54. "gd is a clay image one makes of one's enemy and endows by means of incantations with the power to harm the enemy in his/her dream. Although thus endowed with supernatural powers, if it is placed in the rain it will crumble.  [Back to text]


55. The name Mk (m k) means Do not die.  [Back to text]


56. It is the manner of one's sitting in a company that causes one to be selected as the right person to clear the garbage.  [Back to text]


57. l, mythical city of elephants, also a jungle.  [Back to text]


58. rkr, horse-tail whisk, is one of the tools for consulting If the Yoruba oracle.  [Back to text]


59. A wife is expected to accord respect to the relatives of her husband, even very young ones, especially those born into the family before she is married into it.  [Back to text]