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Part 3: On cageyness, caution, moderation, patience, and prudence


Èké tan-ni síjà ẹkùn, ó fi ọrán ṣíṣẹ́ sápó ẹni.
The devious person goads one to confront a leopard and fills one's quiver with broken arrows.
(One risks danger if one follows a devious person's counsel.)

Eku tí yó pa ológìnní ò níí dúró láyé.
The mouse that attempts to kill a cat will not live long on this earth.
(It is foolhardy for one to take on powers that can destroy one.)

Eku ò gbọdọ̀ ná ọjà tí ológìnní dá.
A mouse dares not visit a market established by a cat.
(One should not deliberately court disaster.)

Èmi ló lòní, èmi ló lọ̀la” lọmọdé fi ńdígbèsè.
“Today belongs to me; tomorrow belongs to me” is the attitude that pushes a youth into debt.
(Lack of foresight leads to disaster).

Èmi ò wá ikún inú agbè fi jiyán; ṣùgbọ́n bíkún bá yí sínú agbè mi mo lè fi jiyán.
I will not go looking for a squirrel in my gourd to eat with pounded yam; but if a squirrel falls into my gourd I will eat it with pounded yam.
(I will not steal, but neither will I refuse a lucky find.)

Èpè-é pọ̀ ju ohun tó nù lọ; abẹ́rẹ́ sọnù a gbé ṣẹ́ẹ́rẹ́ síta.
The curse is out of all proportion to the lost article; a needle is lost “the owner” brings out his/her magic wand.
(One should not overreact to events.)
Compare the following entry.

Èpè-é pọ̀ ju ohun tó nù; abẹ́rẹ́ sọnù wọ́n lọ gbé Ṣàǹgó.
The cursing is far in excess of what is lost; a needle goes missing and the owners invoke Ṣàngó.
(One's reaction to a situation should be commensurate to it.)
This is a variant of the preceding entry.

Eré-e kí lajá ḿbá ẹkùn ṣe?
What sort of sport is it that the dog is engaged in with the leopard?
(One should know better than to court disaster.)

Èrò kì í; jẹ́wọ́-ọ “Mo tà tán.”
The trader never confesses, “I sold all my wares.”
(People are ever loath to disclose the extent of their good fortune.)

Eṣinṣin ò mọkú; jíjẹ ni tirẹ̀.
The fly does not heed death; all its cares to do is eat.
(The fly will persist in attacking an open sore, heedless of death; nothing will keep an addict from the thing he/she is addicted to.)

Èṣù ò ṣejò; ẹni tó tẹ ejò mọ́lẹ̀ lẹ̀bá ḿbá.
There is no disaster stalking the snake; it is whoever steps on a snake that is in trouble.
(It is not the snake inadvertently stepped on that is in peril; it is the person who inadvertently steps on the snake.)

Etí mẹta ò yẹ orí; èèyàn mẹ́ta ò dúró ní méjì-méjì.
Three ears are unbecoming for the head; three people cannot stand in twos.
(Good things are not good in all situations; one can have too much of a good thing.)

Ewú logbó; irùngbọ̀n làgbà; máamú làfojúdi.
Grey hair shows age; a beard shows maturity; a moustache shows impudence.
(One's appearance in a group sometimes indicates one's attitude towards the group.) [28]

Ewúrẹ́ jẹ ó relé; àgùntán jẹ ó relé; à-jẹ-ì-wálé ló ba ẹlẹ́dẹ̀ jẹ́.
The goat forages and returns home; the sheep forages and returns home; the pig's flaw is its habit of not returning home after foraging.
(There is nothing wrong with travelling, as long as one knows when to return home.)

Ewúrẹ́ kì í wọlé tọ ìkokò.
A goat does not venture into the lair of a wolf.
(Never knowingly put yourself in harm's way.)

Èèyan má-jẹ̀ẹ́-kí-èèyàn-kú ḿbẹ níbòmíràn; bó-le-kú-ó-kú m̀bẹ nílé-e wa.
Save-the-person-from-death type of people abounds elsewhere; let-the-person-die-if-he/she-wishes type abounds in our house.
(It is not our way to stop people bent on destroying themselves. Also, We do have evil people in our home.)

Èèyàn-án ní òun ó bà ọ́ jẹ́ o ní kò tó bẹ́ẹ̀; bí ó bá ní o ò nùdí, ẹni mélòó lo máa fẹ fùrọ̀ hàn?
A person vows to disgrace you and you respond that there is no way he can succeed; if he spreads the word that you did not clean yourself after defecating, to how many people will you display your anus?
(No one is immune to malicious defamation.)

Èyí ayé ńṣe ng kà ṣàì ṣe; bádìẹ-ẹ́ máa wọ ọ̀ọ̀dẹ̀ a bẹ̀rẹ̀.
Whatever the rest of the world does I will not forswear; when a chicken wants to enter the porch it stoops.
(One should not violate established custom.)

Èyí ò tófò, èyí ò tófò; fìlà ìmàle-é kù pẹ́tẹ́kí.
“This is no great loss; this is no great loss;” the muslim's cap dwindles to almost nothing.
(If one keeps dispensing of one's property only a little at a time, soon little will be left.) [29]


28. Máamú, (máa mú) the word here used for moustache, means “keep drinking,” a reference to the fact that when a moustached person takes a drink some of the drink clings to the moustache--for later drinking. The proverb presumably refers to the habit of drinking from a communal cup or bowl; in that situation a person who wears a moustache invites others to drink from a cup or bowl in which he has washed his moustache.  [Back to text]


29. The reference is to the skull cap associated with muslims. The idea is that once it was much larger, but then the owner raised no objection to successive requests for just a little piece of it. His response each time is that he can afford to give up just a little bit.  [Back to text]