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


Egn ju egn; r ju r; Pk l onng wgb.
Some masqueraders are greater than others; some gods are greater than others; the masquerader Pk chases the ng worshipper into the bush.
(Every company has its hierarchy; each person should know his or her place.)

Egn na obnrin lg; obnrn t kjp d-i r, fi na egn.
The masquerader did not hit a woman with his shroud, but the woman unwraps her home-woven wrapper and hits the masquerader with it.
(A person is fortunate to have been overlooked by trouble, but he/she goes to deliberately provoke it.) [41]

Egn p lde, ft k dhn; wn n, Baba k b, n, H .
The masquerader stayed too long on parade and is reduced to speaking with his upper lip. They said, Welcome, father, and he responded, He-e-e-e.
(A person who has disgraced himself speaks softly.)

Egn wl, n un r Ejonto; Ejont n, ks ni, b kn wl?
The masquerader enters a house and claims he did not see Ejonto; Ejonto asked, Is that a rag that entered the house, or what?
(A person who disregards one earns one's disregard.)

Eegun jnk: h kok lnu.
An elephant's bone: it sticks in the wolf's mouth.
(A person has overreached him/herself and is paying the price of folly.)

Eegbn so m ynrn lnu, a n k ad w yn an j; ad m p un n onj ynrn.
A tick fastens on a fox's mouth and a chicken is asked to peck it off; the chicken, though, knows that it itself is food for a fox.
(One wastes one's time inviting others to endanger themselves.)
Compare B eegbn b o aynrn nm;.. .

Ej k ti oj r gun gb l.
A snake does not escape over the fence while a warrior [42] watches.
(One does not permit disaster on one's watch; one must live up to the expectations of one's position.)

m dk ok, w dk ok, pm n mk-mk.
I bought twenty cowries worth of corn pap and you bought twenty cowries worth of corn pap, and you call me a corn pap addict.
(One should not criticize others for flaws that are also one's lot.)
Compare go bg, l nu gbr.

mi wf, w wf, o n bab n k gbow w; o d tr sl n?
I am a pawn, you are a pawn, and you tell me the creditor sent you to collect his money; have you repaid yours?
(Whoever will correct others should first take care of his/her own failings.)

Epo ni mo r; onyang m ba tmi j.
It is palm oil that I am carrying; sandman, do not ruin my fortune.
(I am cautiously going about my own business; let no one bring trouble my way.)

Erin k fn km- r fn.
An elephant's trumpeting is never answered by its young's trumpeting.
(Lowly people should not emulate illustrious ones.)

r n ni y rhn k t gb.
It is people who use the path that will spread the word about mature corn.
(A noteworthy accomplishment need not advertise itself.)

sr e fj t lw onyn; algb e fj t lw giri; lmnrn jp e fj t lw- mi.
sr yam [43] forgets itself and loses favor with the maker of pounded yams; the lizard forgets itself and falls into disfavor with the wall; tortoise-like He-who-will-remain-nameless forgets himself and loses all regard with me.
(A person who does not know his or her place soon suffers disgrace.)

Et lobnrn fi gb ohn or.
It is only with the ears that a woman hears the voice of Or.
(One must not intrude into affairs that do not concern one; undesirable people should be kept in the dark about important or delicate matters.) [44]

wo l t k- gb nn ew rgb?
Which among the leaves of the locust-bean tree is adequate to receive corn-loaf?
(Certain feats are beyond certain people; people should not presume to do things beyond their capabilities.) [45]

wo ni ti Skr nl w.
What business does Sikirat have in the town of w?
(One should not intrude into matters that do not concern one.) [46]

Ewj t y t p: gbogbo ehn ni y kn tn.
The cane-rat that attempts to uproot a palm-tree will lose all its teeth in the attempt.
(One should not attempt a task for which one is not qualified.)

Ewr w p un m gntn; gntn l w p un m ewr.
The goat did not say it was not sired by the sheep; it was the sheep that said it was not sired by the goat.
(The goat would like to associate with the sheep; but the sheep would not associate with the goat; superior people reject association with inferior people; not the other way around.)

Ewr k bni k l ss gntn l j.
If sired by a goat, one does not go foraging in the realm of sheep.
(One should keep to one's proper company.)

yn b b lb ya l.
Only people like monkeys have their clothing torn by monkeys.
(Those who consort with undesirables are liable to have their reputation soiled.)

yn rbi sn, aj hanrun.
Humans have no place to sleep, and a dog is snoring.
(A Lowly person lays claim to what his/her betters lack.)

yn t ntj oj kan ni b n; a gbrn a t tin.
A shameless person deserves to have only one eye, that one as large as a horse's.
(Human endowments are wasted on graceless people.) [47]


41. Women are forbidden to approach masquerades, and are supposed to run into hiding whenever masquerades are about on pain of being whipped.  [Back to text]


42. In this case r is the short form of the highest y military title, r n Kakaf[Back to text]


43. Dioscurea Dumetorum (See Abraham: 324); the starch content is so low that it is not suitable for pounding.  [Back to text]


44. Or is a secret cult forbidden to women, and at the approach of whose ritual bearer women must run into hiding.  [Back to text]


45. Corn-loaves are cooked wrapped in large leaves, much larger than the leaves of the locustbean tree, which are inadequate for the purpose. The proverb plays on gb (to receive) and the last end of rgb (gb ), which means receive it, or accommodate it.  [Back to text]


46. Sikirat is a muslim name for a woman; the town of w is, presumably (as far as this proverb is concerned), a stranger to Islam.  [Back to text]


47. The proverb plays on tj, literally the pushing at the eyes, which is the Yoruba word for shame. A person who is insensitive to the pushing at the eyes certainly can do without a second eye, and the one he or she does have can be as large as possible, since it will be insensitive to pushing, and the disfigurement would mark the person as grotesque while having no effect on him or her.  [Back to text]