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


b k gb in gb m.
A stew does not slush around once inside an elder.
(An elder should know how to keep confidences.)

bn rk k trnm; n j t k n ti k un 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.)

g--g lm- mi j, m pe m- mi n g--g m! wo lork rere nb?
My child's name is gg; don't you call my child gg any more! Which of the two is a good name.
(A choice between two bad things is no choice at all.)

gg lw; lsn l fara wu.
The poisonous cassava has no attraction; it resembles a yam only in vain.
(No imitation can be as good as the real thing.)

j gb- k sn ju j gb- t.
The day an elder dies is far better than the day an elder is disgraced.
(Death is preferable to disgrace.)
Compare Or gb- ny, sn ju or gb- f l.

j kan l bj, j gbogbo lara tini.
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.

j kan oo l t; ojoojm loj tini.
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.

j t alkn-n ti epo, k kn orb.
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.)

j t mo ti b ng rr r: olwa - m wn ara 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.)

knjw gb n s ara dwe.
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.)

knjw algba n garn wo egn.
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.)

knrin k k, ak igi k oje.
A man does not cry; hardwood does not ooze sap.
(Fortitude is the mark of a man.)

lgbn kan ta kk omi s; mrn kan m oye erp il.
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.)

lgbn t ara nf; mrn fi ara joy; ab t m l gb k ara .
The wise person does not consult the If 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.)

m -jb-r t ja epo sy.
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.)

m onl t jj.
The owner of the earth treads gently on it.
(Responsible people do not always do as they can, but behave as is proper.)

m ba n okn fi ehn g ej, m ba kan-n n un k j ; l wo lm ba n- ti w?
The prince of na okn 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.)

md dwtil, n n t b; b t b, t gg ya ?
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.)

md n ta lw, n k w k er ow; ta- ha t s epo l?
A child has three cowries in hand and challenges to a game played for money; will three solitary cowries suffice for to purchase palm-oil to lick?
(People who come into some money for the first time are wont to overestimate their sudden worth.) [86]

mt gbgb , alkr gbgb la.
The drunkard ignores his misery; the ill-fated person forgets tomorrow.
(Irresponsible people often indulge themselves instead of taking care of their pressing problems.)

n fun gba egungun ja.
The throat cannot accommodate fish-bone.
(Everybody and everything has some limitation.)

rn dun m in; a m y so, j 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.)

r bt-bt y gblagb.
Speech like drunken babble does not befit a venerable person.
(Responsible adults should be very careful about what they say.)

r dn lnu y ol.
Speech is not pleasant in the mouth of the mother of a thief.
(There is little a miscreant can say that will impress people.)

r wo l w lnu ala ppn?
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.)

sn pn o n k; orn kan tr o j ml; lej- w b n ytr orn o r kan fn un; o n Nj ng n t lw by? O t t lw ara , k t w wp o t lw lmrn tb o n t?
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.)

n l m wd k; Bmidl ln l m.
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.) [87]

l yni; kt gbb y m yn.
One never looks good in other people's finery; borrowed trousers do not fit the borrower.
(One should not be a habitual borrower.)

w dil n y korko lj na .
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.)

wn l ra go, p l ra bn, iyekye l ra ml.
Honor is always bought dear, filthiness cheap, and idleness at an indifferent price.
(Nothing is more difficult to come by than honor.)

yj-u bal n pd bs ln.
It is a reckless home owner who is met with alarms when he ventures outside.
(A patriarch who misbehaves earns disgrace.)


86. is the unpredictable god in the Yorb pantheon, his favorite food is palm-oil.  [Back to text]


87. Bmidl is a male name. The proverb is probably based on the play between n, the name for the vulturine fish-eagle, and n, a male name that is sometimes used as a designation for a king. Bmidl (which means Come home with me) indicates that the possible prey is one that is readily at hand.  [Back to text]