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Part 2: On perspicaciousness (good judgment, perceptiveness), reasonableness, sagacity, savoir-faire, wisdom, and worldly wisdom


Baba-snk fm- r sf; albe fm- r kw.
The executor does not pawn his child; his helper pawns his own.
(The obligated person holds back, while the helper risks his all.)

Bal lw ni lej lw.
An unsolicitous host makes for a visitor with no deference.
(The visitor responds according to his reception.) [47]

Bal gb- n un n nkan-n t lrun, k ow k n ti p.
The chief of farmers says he has nothing to go to heaven to sell; all he cares about is fair payment for his corn.
(If one does not ask for too much, one will not have to die to get it.)

By l e nbkan, w ibmnn.
This is what we do in one place is taboo in another.
(Different people, different ways.)

B a b b aiwr gb, a gba od lgbn; b a b b ew iy t, a lk.
If one lives with a maniac one incurs the enmity of the wise; if one shuns iy leaves one offends the corn-gruel seller.
(If one keeps bad company one alienates good people; if one shuns a person one shuns that person's friends.)

B a b b rn w, k b rn w.
As one castigates rn, one should also castigate rn.
(If both sides in a dispute deserve blame, one should apportion it accordingly.)
Compare: B a b kl fl, k kl fnu b n. [48]

B a b fi w tn na m, fi w s f mra.
If one whips a child with the right hand, one embraces it with the left.
(A child deserving punishment yet deserves love.)

B a b jw tn rn l rn; b a b y tn orun n kunni.
After a joke one gives way to laughter; after satiation one gives way to sleep.
(The action should match the occasion.)
Compare: B a b sr tn, rn l rn . . .

B a b kl fl, k kl fnu b n.
As one warns the thief, one should also warn the owner of the wayside yams.
(The offender and the tempter both deserve blame.)
Compare: B a b b rn w, k b rn w.

B a b n m, mrn a m .
If one says Know, the knowledgeable will know it.
(The perceptive person can detect meaning in the slightest of signs.)

B a b sunkn, ma rran.
While one weeps, one can still see.
(However accommodating one is, one should never take leave of one's good judgement.)

B a b rnni n r, fi j tm.
If one is sent on an errand like a slave, one carries it out like a freeborn.
(The well-bred person removes the flaws in a message sent through him, or a task given him to perform.)

B a b rnt j kan bl, k rnt j kan knl abiyam, k rnt kan ab t tani lra.
If one remembers the day of (the loss of) virginity, one should also remember the day of a woman's delivery, and one should remember the vagina that smarts.
(As one takes one's pleasures, one should be mindful of the pains that make them possible.)

B a b r k, ebyn rere ni; sr sgbn a j.
When one sees a devious person one mistakes him for a good person; one talks into a basket and it leaks.
(It is easy to mistake a bad person for a good person, and to place one's trust in that person.)

B a b r wr, al k?
Although one has seen the morning, what about night time?
(Nobody should be judged until he or she has reached the end of his or her days.)

B a b sr tn, rn l rn; b a b y tn orun n kunni.
When one is done discussing a matter one laughs, when one is satiated sleep claims one.
(When a matter has been taken care of, one turns one's attention in the appropriate direction.)
Compare: B a b jw tn rn l rn . . .

B a b e ohun l, fi p gba ara ni l.
If one has committed a great offense, one frees oneself by swearing (innocence).
(One's greatest duty is one's self-preservation.)

B a b ta ar il ni lp, a k r i r lwn-n m.
If one sells a member of one's household cheap, one will not be able to buy him back at a great value.
(Once one has besmirched the name of a person one is close to, one cannot later wipe it clean.)

B a k b gb pl s sn omi gbgbn, k tn gb e s s tt, k m y t sn.
If one does not throw a toad into hot water, and then throw it into cold water, it does not know which is better.
(It takes a change in circumstances to make one appreciate one's good fortune.)

B a k b gbn ju par oko ni l, a k pa .
If one is not more clever than the partridge on one's farm, one cannot kill it.
(To succeed one must be more clever than one's adversary.)

B a k b rdnn, fb b.
If one cannot find a bat, one sacrifices a housebat.
(One makes do with what one can find.)
See also the next entry.

B a k b rgn a gbd eb; b a b r kl a gbd or.
If we cannot find a vulture we may not offer a sacrifice; if we cannot find a ground hornbill we may not carry out a ritual.
(Nothing can be accomplished in the absence of the requisite materials.)
Compare the previous entry.

B a k b tor iu j epo, tor epo ju.
If one does not eat oil because of yams, one will eat yams because of oil.
(If one does not perform a duty because one likes it, one performs it because it is the right thing to do.)

B a k bm r, a k ha rm lhn ad?
If one has never had a child, has one not seen chicks flocking after chickens?
(Children are no novelty that any person does not know about.)

B a k rnni sj, j k rnni sl.
If one does not send a message to the market, the market does not send a message to one at home.
(Unless one makes an effort, one cannot expect rewards.)

B a k e d r, a k l m s- k-l-ibun.
If one has never hunted, one would not know the tracks of it-did-not-go-that-way.
(One is an ignoramus in a trade that is not one's own.)

B al b l, fi m ay fn ay.
When night comes, one gives the ay seeds to ay.
(When the time comes, one puts an end to whatever one is doing.) [49]

B al b l, bnn-bnn a rws.
When night falls, bnn-bnn goes limp.
(There must be an end to every struggle and every exertion.) [50]

B al k l, b k f.
If night does not fall, the house bat does not fly.
(All actions must await their auspicious moments.)

B ap k rb, ap l k egb d-i r.
If the arms cannot encompass the silk-cotton tree, they may encompass its root.
(If one is no match for the father, one may be more than a match for the child.)

B rn bbur b wl, ogn bbur la fi w .
If a terrible epidemic descends on a town, it is confronted with a terrible medicine.
(One matches the medicine to the disease.)

B egn b wl, or ni e.
If a masquerader wishes to disappear into the ground, it cries Or!
(A person intending to do something extraordinary should give prior warning.)

B er b er, lbrn-n dw.
Like play, like play, the makeshift cape became a dress.
(Imperceptibly, a stop-gap arrangement has become the status quo.)

B lrk rgrg b ro j- tir tn, k rnt p lrk mk r r.
After the person with smooth cheeks has stated his or her case, he or she should remember that the person with blemished cheeks will have something to say.
(The person who looks good owing to the efforts of his or her subordinates should remember that they also deserve some credit.)

B ig b w lu igi, tk l k gb.
If trees fall atop one another, one removes the topmost one first.
(One should attend to affairs according to their urgency.)

B ikn b j, b ikn b mu, ikn a wo orn al.
When the squirrel has eaten, when the squirrel has drunk, the squirrel looks at the setting sun.
(Whatever one does, one should mind the passing of time.)

B il- b lan, pl f gun igi.
If the earth catches fire, the toad will hop on a tree.
(If one's position becomes untenable, one seeks refuge elsewhere.)

B il b d s mj, tba rn l e.
If the town is split into two, one does the will of the heavenly king.
(If there is a division in one's group, one takes the side God would favor.)

B i k p ni, a k p i.
If a task does not delay one, one does not drag it out.
(Tasks that are easy should be finished promptly.)

B k b t r j, a k l .
If a fight is not yet spent, one does not intervene to end it.
(One cannot end a fight that is not yet willing to end.)

B kk b dni, a k j or md; b a b j or md, a k l s wj pp; b a b l s wj pp, wn ara ni l m.
(If one is tripped by a protruding object one should not eat a wart-hog's head; if one eats a wart-hog's head, one should not go to a gathering of cudgels; if one goes to a gathering of cudgels, one should know one's place and act accordingly.
(If unforseen circumstances force one to engage in risky behavior, one should be that much more careful.)

B nkn b tn nl, m b a b sj, wn t w nb a mra ti l.
At the conclusion of a ceremony the acolyte commences to dance, and the onlookers prepare to make their exit.
(One should not hang around after one's business is done.)

B o b j ng so , kk y w lrn-in r.
If you break I will retie you; there will be a knot in it.
(Something repaired is seldom the same as something unspoilt.)

B o k gb gn, o k gb wy-wy?
If you do not understand gn, do you not recognize signs that someone is speaking?
(One may not understand what a person says, but one will be able to tell that the person is speaking.)

B o ma e aya Olgbn e aya Olgbn; b o ma e aya Ars e aya Ars, k o y pkk lgb giri; ni t y e aya Olf a kgb wl.
If you will be a wife to the Olgbn be a wife to him; if you will be a wife to the Ars be a wife to him, and stop sneaking around hugging walls; a person who would be the wife of the Olf must gather her affairs into the house.
(Once one has chosen a course, one should commit oneself completely to it.) [51]

B obnrin b gb il t mj, k m y t sn.
If a woman has not lived in at least two homes, she never knows which is better.
(Unless one has tasted some adversity, one does not appreciate one's good fortune.)

B oj b m, olw a gbw; rnw a gb kk; ajagun a gb apata; gb a j tun trk; m d a j tap trn; ajw a b od omi l.
When day breaks, the trader takes up his trade; the cotton spinner picks up the spindle; the warrior grabs his shield; the farmer gets up with his hoe; the son of the hunter arises with his quiver and his bows; he-who-wakes-and-washes-with-soap makes his way to the river.
(When morning comes, everybody should embark on something useful.)

B oj b r r, a w fn.
When the eyes come upon a matter, they must look hard and well.
(Imperfect understanding of a matter causes difficulties.)

B oj md t tn, a b wgb.
If a youth's eyes do not witness a story, they should be good for hearsay.
(If one does not witness something, one learns from those who did.)

B olsn-n b l osn, ara-a r n fi dnw.
When the camwood powder seller grinds the powder, she tests it on her own body.
(One tries one's remedy on one's self before offering it to others.)

B r b m lhn, k abuk ma mra sl.
If the gods take a person with a protruding back, the humpback should make ready.
(If a person like one suffers a certain fate, one is at risk.)

B we b we l ll gdgb; olgbn n j o; mrn n s m.
Like proverbs, like proverbs one plays the gdgb music; [52] only the wise can dance to it, and only the knowledgeable know it.
(Only the wise can follow subtle discourses.)

B we b we nIf sr.
Like proverbs, like proverbs are the pronouncements of If. [53]
(The most profound speech is indirect and subtle.)

B bn m r, a m oj ow.
If the filthy person does not know profit, he should know his capital.
(If a person cannot improve a matter, he should not worsen it.)

B knrn rj, tbrn pa , n kj m l.
If a man sees a snake, and a woman kills it, what matters is that the snake does not escape.
(One should not be a stickler about roles.)

B lrun-n b ti ft ni hanni, k l pani m.
Once God has revealed one's enemy to one, he can no longer kill one.
(Knowledge neutralizes dangers.)

B lgbn b fi wr se iu, mrn a ma fi gg yn n.
If a wise person is cooking yams in an insane way, a knowing person picks them with stakes.
(If a person tries to mislead one, one finds one's own direction.)

B m b jgbn-n kk, y-a r a jgbn-n rr .
If a child learns the trick of crying, the mother learns the trick of consoling him or her.
(One must be ready to adapt to cope with any situation.)
See the next entry also.

B m b jgbn-n kk, y a jgbn-n ssin.
If a child learns the trick of dying, his mother should learn the trick of burying.
(One should learn to meet wiles with wiles.)
See also the preceding entry.

B m b y, a fikn han baba.
When a child is full, he shows his stomach to his father.
(When one accomplishes one's goals, one feels like celebrating; also, one should show one's appreciation to one's benefactor.)

B md b dp ore n, a r tn gb.
If a child expresses gratitude for yesterday's favor, he will receive today's.
(The grateful person encourages others to do him more favors.)

B md b b igi, gblagb a ma wo ibi t y w s.
If a youth is felling a tree, an elder will be considering where it will fall.
(Unlike the youth, the elder is mindful of consequences.)

B md b m ay, y la fi pa .
If a child is an adept ay player, one defeats him with single seeds.
(A precocious child may be almost as accomplished as an adult, but will not be quite as accomplished.)

B md b ub a wo iwj; b gb b ub a wo hn.
When a youth falls he looks ahead; when an elder falls he looks behind.
(The youth is mindful of what his superiors think of him, while the elder is mindful of what the young think of him.)
Compare: B md b ma s a wo iwj . . .

B md b r oko baba lmrn, a n k s oko baba ni t t ti baba un.
If a youth has never seen another person's father's farm, he says no body's father's farm is as large as his father's.
(Until one has seen other people's great accomplishments, one is overly impressed by one's own.)

B md k iyn n, tn la pa fn un.
If a child refuses yesterday's pounded yams, it is stories one treats the child to.
(A person who boycotts a meal or some entitlement simply deprives him/herself of some benefits.)

B rn b p nl, gbgbn n gbn.
If a problem remains long enough, it becomes clever.
(If one keeps at it long enough, one will find the solution for any problem.)

B w b e n, k a lr.
If the arms cannot be swung, one carries them on one's head.
(If one cannot do as one would, one does what one can.)

B sby y b degb, olgambe l w fn.
If guinea worm is becoming an ulcer, one should inform olgambe.
(When a problem arises, one must consult those who can solve it.) [54]

B tls b di mj, kan l m.
When emergencies number two, one concentrates on one.
(One concentrates on one problem at a time.)

Bn mi nu kan k j k oko o.
Give me one yam does not precede Greetings to you on the farm.
(One does not ask a favor of, or transact any business with any person without first exchanging pleasantries with the person.)
Compare e m nu n wj ku b?


47. The word bal means both landlord and husband.  [Back to text]


49. Ay is the game played with seeds in a board with twelve scooped holes, a game popular in many parts of the continent.  [Back to text]


50. Bnnbnn is another name for the tree aynr,whose leaves droop when night falls. The term could also apply to a person noted for restlessness.  [Back to text]


51. The persons named are titled people, whose wives would be expected to be above reproach.  [Back to text]


52. Royal ceremonial music of y[Back to text]


53. The Yoruba oracle god.  [Back to text]


54. A medicine for treating guinea worm.  [Back to text]