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


b l b k p k tn l-u r e.
One can only remonstrate with a wicked person to urge him or her to improve his or her town.
(Gentle pleas are the only likely means of getting contrary people to do what is right.)

b d, ogn d, n gba alk l.
A little sacrifice, a little medicine, is what keeps the one who does not die alive.
(One should not place all of one's faith in a single solution to a problem.)

b nkan l fi nkan r.
It is a sacrifice on behalf of only one person that demands only one person as offering.
(Extraordinary problems demand extraordinary solutions.)

f- df iyn; a palw k bal il n pun b?
The teasing involves pounded yams; the corn-loaf is unwrapped, and the father of the household asks, Did someone call me?
(A person who wants something badly will not let a little teasing put him or her off taking it.)
See the next entry also.

f- df iyn; b gbmi lul ng b jun.
The teasing involves pounded yam; even if you throw me on the ground I will eat with you.
(No amount of teasing will stop me from doing what I have in mind.)
Compare the preceding entry.

gb ni k wn ly k w a l srun.
One does not upon failing to find suitable company in this world go looking in heaven.
(If one cannot find what one wants, one should learn to do without it.)

j a-fni-lbnrin l w; a k wj a-fni-lm.
One may complain about a person who courts one's wife, but one does not complain about a person who courts one's daughter.
(One should not pursue causes without good grounds.)

kan lej ynni.
One gets bitten by a snake only once.
(The same disaster does not befall one more than once; after the first time one learns to avoid it.)

lnu- t r s.
An overly loquacious person is someone to flee from.
(Be wary of loquacious people.)

ld n j t n ti jgbn-n hn, j n ni r ti nun lra m.
The pig says since the day it learned to reply to every statement with a grunt it has not got into any trouble.
(A person who says nothing seldom gets in trouble.)
This is a variant of jp n j t n ti jgbnn o . . . and ru o k wni lrn.

lj a y t w w.
The person with complaints selects the most pressing ones to press.
(One should concentrate on one's most pressing problems.)

ni a gb k-u r sin, a k s p rn pani.
One does not complain that a corpse one will have to bury stinks.
(One should not run down a person or thing that will eventually devolve to one's care.)

ni a p k w wo kb: n k ny kbi-kbi?
The person invited to take a look at the palace stateroom: he exclaims, What a maze of apartments!
(One should not waste one's breath expressing the obvious.) [60]

ni w k wran.
The person people have gathered to watch should not himself or herself be a spectator.
(One should not ignore one's problems to dwell on others'.)

ni a w fn ko gb; ni a f fn k gb; y t gb y fil bora.
Whoever people speak to should listen; whoever people instruct should accept instruction; the one who does not listen will be covered by the earth.
(Refusal to heed advice can be deadly.)

ni gbn pa l p; ni gbn pa t kan.
People killed by folly are innumerable; people killed by wisdom are few.
(Few things kill more surely than folly.)

n b rkun nm lj n fn n.
Whoever sees mucus in the nose of the king is the one who cleans it.
(Tactless or indiscreet people usually rue their bad judgement.)
Compare ni t b s p s eegn hn . . .

n b t ni- gb l k p.
One appeals only to those capable of helping one.
(One should not seek the aid of feckless people.)

n du ara-a r ly Apn: k t j ran f, drun.
Whoever deprives himself of the title of Apena will wait until he dies before tasting free meat.
(If one does not grab opportunities when they present themselves, one is in for a difficult life.) [61]

n gbn juni l n tni nf.
It is someone wiser than one who consults the oracle for one.
(One receives advice only from those qualified to offer it.)

n lku mj pfo.
Whoever chases after two rats will catch neither.
(If one pursues two or more objectives at once one is liable to achieve neither.)

n ma k bs pa baba r j.
Whoever wishes to raise an alarm will have to murder his father.
(Whoever acts without cause will have to justify his action by manufacturing some cause.)

n rb r- gbd r ti yn k b- t gb.
Whoever offers a sacrifice to a deity must also offer a sacrifice to humans in order for the sacrifice to be efficacious.
(One can please the gods and yet run afoul of humans.)

ni t a b fi or-i r f gbn n j nb.
The person on whose head a coconut is broken will not share in eating it.
(Whoever takes foolhardy risks in pursuit of an end seldom lives to enjoy it.)

ni t a b b nj l w, a k wo ariwo j.
One pays attention to the person with whom one is bargaining, not to the commotion of the market place.
(One should keep one's mind on one's business and leave extraneous matters aside.)

ni t a wfn k gb; ni t k gb, tara-a r ni y d.
Let the person one advises heed one; the heedless person places himself at risk.
(Those who refuse instruction lay the foundation for their own ruin.)

ni t gn gn ls n e lklk tl albr.
It is the person with a thorn in his foot who limps to the person with a needle.
(The person in need of help should make some effort in his own behalf, and not expect his helper to make all the necessary effort.)

ni t k gbn lw gb.
Only the unwise hungers while fasting.
(The resourceful person can find a way around any difficulty.)

ni t k m i- j n pr lmej.
It is a person who does not know how to carry out instructions that is forced to repeat his or her efforts.
(One saves time and effort by doing things right the first time.)

ni t k m ba n fba er.
Only a person who does not know the king trifles with the king.
(The wise person recognizes potential danger and avoids it.)

ni t l j ni y knl kal.
It is the incorrigible fighter who has to remain on his or her knees until nightfall.
(The person who cannot stay out of a fight will spend his or her time incessantly stating cases.) [62]

ni t y b gn, y ra j-a tir lt.
The person who will worship gun will keep his or her market purchases separate from those of others.
(If one's priorities are incompatible with those of others, one parts company with them.)

ni t y f y br.
The person who will leap must first crouch.
(One must make adequate preparations for any project.)

ni t y mu k fr, y b m lk er.
Whoever wishes to eat steaming corn pap will play with the child of the seller.
(One must ingratiate oneself with the person from whom one expects a favor.)
This is a variant of the next entry.

ni t y mu k f y b m lk er.
The person who wishes to eat free corn pap will play with the seller's child.
(Nothing comes free.)
Compare the preceding entry.

ni t y w l, n-i r n k; ni t y w-o ng, j-a r n r.
Whoever chooses concubinage as a practice must provide herself with a sleeping mat; whoever chooses ng's trade (one to do with metal) must purchase his magical rattle.
(One prepares oneself according to what is proper for one's chosen trade.)

ni t y yni lw, t k n sinni, ohn nu-u r la ti m.
The person who will lend one money and will not keep pestering one for repayment: one can tell from the tone of his or her voice.
(The way people talk is a good indication of their character.)

ni t b da omi swj t il tt.
Whoever throws water ahead will step on cool earth.
(The future will look kindly on those who look well to the future.)

ni t b fi oj n wk, bra a b l.
Whoever looks at the dead with yesterday's eyes will be stripped naked by the spirits.
(One behaves towards people according to the heights they have attained, not according to the way they used to be.) [63]

ni t b ma j pl a j y t lyin.
If one must eat a toad one should eat one with eggs.
(If one must suffer, one might as well do so with panache.)

ni t b ma lu gb a lu l; kker gbf, l gbf.
Whoever will smite a secret-cult priest had better smite an important one; for a lowly one twelve hundred cowries in fines, and for an important one twelve hundred cowries.
(If the penalty for a small offence is the same as that for a grievous one, one might as well throw all caution to the wind.)

ni t b ma m b a e b b.
Whoever wishes to catch a monkey must act like a monkey.
(To succeed against an adversary, or with a person one desires, one must suit one's approach to the other's ways.)

ni t b m d rn tl n bu bj k.
It is a person who has prior knowledge of the facts of a matter that can foil a devious person's attempts to skirt them.
(Prior knowledge is the surest weapon against lies.)

ni t b n igb- l, b igb- b j, k dr so .
If one must use a tree-climbing rope and it breaks, one must pause to repair it.
(One must make the time to attend to chores that must be performed.)

ni t b p lr im, einin kinin y b a nb.
Whoever prolongs his or her defecating will be visited by a host of flies.
(Nothing good comes of dawdling over what one must do.)

ni t b rnt Efuji, k m fi ore e in.
Whoever remembers Efuji should show no kindness to any horse.
(One should remember those who have caused one injury, and remember to show them no favor.) [64]

ni t b rnt j n e m k pl; ta n j e m egn lore?
Those who gratefully remember past favors extend compassion to the survivors of the deceased; who would rather show compassion to the child of a masquerader?
(When a good person dies, his or her survivors inherit the good will of those who remember him or her well.)

ni t b s p s egn hn n w abr l.
Whoever announces that the legs of the masquerader are showing is the one who goes in search of a needle.
(Some sights the eyes must not acknowledge seeing.) [65]
Compare B oj b r, nu a dkand n b rkun nm ba...

ni t b y wf gb, tun tir n l ata knn.
Whoever hires a pawn for only sixpence will join the pawn in grinding pepper.
(Whatever comes too cheaply is sure to work unsatisfactorily.) [66]
Compare ni t fni n flw . . . below.

ni t dbl- e ogn jkad tn.
The person who remains prone has perfected the charm for wrestling.
(The wise person forestalls problems.)

ni t fi irun dd er, y fi funfun sin nilni.
Whoever plays around with his or her black hair will serve others with his or her white hair.
(If one wastes one's youth, one spends one's old age struggling for a living.)

ni t fi ow-o r ra in, k n j k e rnj.
Whoever paid his or her own money for a horse will not let it be sacrificed for a good-luck charm.
(One guards one's treasures jealously.)

ni t gbajm t k m yn-n k, un brw gbra.
The dandy who does not know how to extend greetings to people is no different from a boor.
(Good looks without the social graces amount to nothing.)

ni t ma t k pl, y n il gbni tir lt.
Whoever wishes to lay a dead toad in state will have to build his own cult shrine separately.
(Whoever wishes to do the absurd should not expect the cooperation or approval of others.)

ni t ma yni lw, ti rn-un r l w.
If a person offers to lend one a dress, one should consider what he or she has on.
(One should be discriminating about those from whom one will accept favors.)

ni t mi kkt, araa r n m.
The person who shakes a tree stump shakes himself.
(Whoever takes on an invincible adversary fashions his or her own defeat.)

ni t m tu n k n bj, ls w.
It is someone who knows the duiker intimately who can recite its praise, spindle-legged duiker.
(Only those deeply involved in a profession are versed in its jargon.) [67]

ni t p fn wr j, un ti wr kan-n.
The person who claps for a mad person to dance to is no different from the mad person.
(Whoever joins the imbecile in his or her games is himself or herself an imbecile.)

ni t pa ktkt y ru ky r.
The person who kills the donkey will carry a heavy burden.
(Whoever is careless with his/her resources will pay dearly in the future.)

ni t rn s or- bw fn sn.
Whoever sends for Or is contracting for sleeplessness.
(Whoever deliberately provokes trouble should be prepared for a difficult time.) [68]

ni t re bdn t k d il Olyl, oko igi l l.
Whoever goes to Ibadan and does not visit Oluyle's house merely went wood gathering.
(Whoever misses the principal sight of any place might as well not have visited the place at all.). [69]

ni t rb t k gba w, b ni t fi ow b f ni.
The person who makes a sacrifice but does not follow the prescribed taboos is just like someone who throws away the money for the sacrifice.
(A person who knows of the remedy but does not apply it is as badly off as the person who does not know the remedy at all.)

ni t s ld lkr, onj l fn un.
The person who throws palm-nuts at a pig gives food to it.
(One does not douse a fire by throwing oil on it).

ni t tor tt fi mr od yn gbd ret a-ti-jyn.
Whoever because of cold weather uses the pestle as kindling to warm him/herself must not expect to eat pounded yams.
(One should not jeopardize one's long-term interests by indulging in immediate gratifications.)

nu mnu, t mt, n m rn b rk.
A mouth that will not stay shut, lips that will not stay closed, are what bring trouble to the cheeks.
(The words that the mouth and lips allow to escape usually bring the slap to the cheek; a person who cannot keep his/her mouth shut often lands in trouble.)

nu ehoro gba jnu.
A rabbit's mouth does not accept a leash.
(Do not adopt an inappropriate remedy for a problem.)

rk ni il rn.
The cheeks are the home of laughter.
(Suit the means to the project.)

r bb n mni pe j n ar ire.
It is fear that makes one call witches the good people.
(It is wise to curry the favor of fearful or malicious people.)

r-u ho k wni lrn.
I agree is not a load that causes one's neck to shrink.
(Saying one agrees, even when one does not, spares one a great deal of headache.
Compare jp n j t n ti jgbn-n . . .

sn alts s lw kb.
The ridiculing of the person with gonorrhea does not belong with the eunuch.
(Do not ridicule a person whose condition is no worse than yours'.)

y igb k m ff dn.
The bird of the forest does not know how to fly in the grassland.
(When one is in a strange environment, one becomes a dunce.)

y w tif, w s k s i.
A bird is preparing for flight, and people throw stones at it.
(One needs little encouragement to do what one is determined to do anyway; being forced to do what one wishes to do anyway is no punishment.)


60. The kb is an extension of the palace used as a stateroom, or as a verandah; its approaches are necessarily mazelike, a fact that is to be taken for granted.  [Back to text]


61. Apn is the title of the second-ranking member of the powerful gbni cult. The holder leads the procession in funerary rites, and is free to enter and eat in any house.  [Back to text]


62. People brought before a tribunal usually state their case on their knees.  [Back to text]


63. The dead are believed to acquire powers beyond those possessed by the living; one would earn a dead person's displeasure, therefore, if one continued to regard him or her as though still among the living.  [Back to text]


64. Efuji is a legendary gb woman who died from being thrown by a horse. (Bascom's note.)  [Back to text]


65. It is taboo for any part of a masquerader's body to show. If one notices any part showing, one would be wise to keep the fact to oneself.  [Back to text]


66. wf (pawn) is a person whose services one acquires in return for a loan of money.  [Back to text]


67. It is one of the expectations of the hunting profession that hunters know the praises of the animals they encounter in their trade. The cited phrase comes from the hunters' praise for the duiker. See Baballa: 88-91; Abraham: 199.  [Back to text]


68. Or is a secret and much feared cult forbidden to women, and fearful for all.  [Back to text]


69. Olyl was an illustrious king of bdn in the 1830s.  [Back to text]