Part 4: On perseverance, industry, resilience, self-confidence, self-reliance, resourcefulness, daring, fortitude, and invulnerability
Kàkà kí ilẹ̀ kú, ṣíṣá ni yó ṣàá.
Rather than die, the earth will only become bare.
(One may be inconvenienced by one's enemies' machinations, but one will not be destroyed by them.
Kì í kan ẹni ká yẹrí.
When a duty comes to one's turn one does not duck it.
(One must step up and carry out one's responsibility when the time comes.)
Kí a re odò ká sùn; kí ni ará ilé yó mu?
If we go to the river and sleep there, what will the people left at home drink?
(One must not fail those who depend on one.)
Kí á gbé ọkọ́ so sájà ká pète ìmẹ́lẹ́; ojúgun-ún yó tán ó fikùn sẹ́hìn.
Hiding the hoe in the loft and contriving to shirk work; the shin ate its fill and developed a stomach at its back.
(Said of people who shirk work but eagerly partake of the rewards.)
Kí á ránni níṣẹ́ ò tó ká mọ̀ ọ́ jẹ́.
To be sent on an errand is nothing compared to knowing how to carry it out.
(The good servant is the one who does performs his/her tasks well.)
Kí á tó bí ọmọdé, ẹnìkan là ḿbá ṣeré.
Before the child was born, one had someone as a playmate.
(Message to someone that before he/she came around one got along rather well, and one would do so again if the person were to disappear from the scene.)
Compare Ohun kan ladìẹ ńjẹ . . . and Kí òyìnbó tó de . . .
Kí eégún tó dé lAlágbaà-á ti ńfọ̀lẹ̀lẹ̀ jẹ̀kọ.
Long before the arrival of masqueraders the Alágbaà had been eating corn-meal with steamed bean loaves.
(One got on very well before the other person happened on the scene.)
Kì í rẹ òòrẹ̀ kó rẹ sinsin ìdí ẹ̀.
The porcupine may tire, but never the quills at its rear.
(One can never be so tired that one will leave oneself defenseless.)
Kì í tán nígbá osùn ká má rìí fi pa ọmọ lára.
The calabash of camwood is never so empty that one does not find enough in it to rub on a baby.
(One may lack many things, but never the means to fulfill one's obligations.)
Kí ni eégún ńwò tí kò fi òwúrọ̀ jó?
What was the masquerader looking at that he did not take advantage of the morning to dance?
(One should not dawdle, but rather do things at the most opportune moment.)
Kí ní ḿbẹ nínú isà tí yó ba òkú lẹ́rù?
What is there in the grave to frighten a corpse?
(There is nothing in the offing that one cannot cope with.)
Kí ni ọmọ ẹyẹ ó ṣe fún ìyá ẹ̀ ju pé kó dàgbà kó fò lọ?
What will a nestling do for its mother other than becoming mature and flying away?
(People who are powerless to help one cannot hurt one by witholding their support from one.)
Kí òyìnbó tó dé la ti ńwọ aṣọ.
Long before the white man came we were wearing clothes.
(One got along pretty well before a certain person came on the scene.)
Compare Kí á tó bí ọmọdé . . ., and Ohun kan ladìẹ ńjẹ . . .
Kíkú ajá, ng kò ní omitooro ẹ̀-ẹ́ lá; àìkú ẹ̀ ng kò ní pè é rán níṣẹ́.
When the dog dies I will not lick the stew made with it; alive I will not send it on an errand.
(One has absolutely no use for the person at whom the proverb is directed.)
This is a variant of Akú, nkò ní omitootoo rẹ̀-ẹ́ lá . . .
Kìnìún ò níí ṣàgbákò ẹkùn.
A lion does not face peril from a leopard.
(The stronger person has nothing to fear from the weaker.)
Kò ka ikú: àdàbà sùú-sùú tí ńjẹ̀ láàrin àṣá.
It fears not death: the pigeon that forages among hawks.
(Said of people who habitually court danger.)
Kò sí alápatà tí ńpa igún.
There is no butcher who slaughters the vulture for sale.
(Certain actions are forbidden: one is beyond the powers of one's enemies.)
Kò sí bí igbó ṣe lè ta kókó tó, erin óò kọjá.
No matter how knotty the bush might be, the elephant will find a way through it.
(No obstacle can stop a resourceful ad formidable person.)
Compare Ìtàkùn tó ní kérin má gòkè àjà . . .
Kò sí èrè nínú-u “Gba owó kà.”
There is no profit in “Take this money and count it “for me”.”
(One cannot count on profiting from others' industry.)
Kò sí ewu lóko, àfi gìrì àparò.
There is no danger on the farm except for the sudden noise of partridges taking to the air.
(An incantatory wish that all dangers will stay well away from one or some subject of one's wishes.)
Kò sí ẹni tí Ọlọ́run ò ṣe fún, àfi ẹni tó bá ní tòun ò tó.
There is no one to whom God has not been generous, only those who will say he has not been generous enough.
(Everyone has something to be thankful for.)
Kò sí ibi tí kò gba ọ̀gọ̀; ọ̀lẹ layé ò gbà.
There is no place where a fool is not welcome; the world rejects only shiftless people.
(People may be foolish, but they had better not be shiftless.)
Kò sí ibi tí ọwọ́-ọ̀jà erin ò tó.
There is no place an elephant's trunk cannot reach.
(There is no place beyond a person's reach or influence.)
Kò sí ikú tí kò rọ adìẹ lọ́rùn.
There is no manner of death that is inconvenient for the chicken.
(One is game for whatever propositions might be made to one.)
Kò sí ohun tí ńti òkè bọ̀ tí ilẹ̀ ò gbà.
There is nothing dropping from above that the earth cannot withstand.
(There is no eventuality that one cannot cope with.)
Kò sí oúnjẹ tí ḿmú ara lókun bí èyí tí a jẹ sẹ́nu ẹni lọ.
There is no food that nourishes one's body like that one puts in one's own mouth.
(The only thing one can be sure of is what one has in one's possession.)
Kó wó, kó wó, àràbà ò wó; ojú tìrókò.
“May it crash! May it crash!” The silk-cotton tree does not crash; the ìrókò tree is shamed.
(The person whose enemies have been wishing and expecting to fail has not failed; the enemies are shamed.)
Kọ̀ǹkọ̀ṣọ̀-ọ́ ní bí a ti ṣe òun tó yìí, òún ṣì ńku èlùbọ́.
The sieve says despite all that has been done to it it still manages to sift yam-flour.
(A statement that despite all vicissitudes placed in one's path one was still able to do what was expected of one.)
Kùtù-kùtù kì í jíni lẹ́ẹ̀mejì; kùtù-kùtù ní ńjẹ́ òwúrọ̀; biri ní ńjẹ́ alẹ́.
Early dawn does not wake one twice; early dawn is the morning; deep darkness is night.
(The morning comes only once; whoever wastes it will discover too late that night has fallen.)
Labẹ́-labẹ́ ò bá tìjà wá odò; kanna-kánná ò bá ti ẹ̀kọ wá oko.
plant did not come to the river looking for a fight; the crow did not come to the farm in search of corn gruel.
(One may be minding one's business when one is provoked; one should nevertheless be prepared to respond.)
The next entry is a version of the same proverb.
Labẹ́-labẹ́ ò bẹ̀rù ìjà.
The labẹ́labẹ́ plant is not afraid of a fight.
(One is prepared for whatever trouble might come one's way.)
See the previous entry.
Lékèélékèé gbàràdá, ó gba tẹlòmíràn mọ.
The cattle egret borrows wonders to perform, and performs enough for itself and others.
(Said of people who have done far more than anyone expected of them.)
Lójú-lójú là ńwo ẹni tí a óò kéwì fún.
It is directly in the eyes that one looks at the subject of the praise poem one is performing.
(One should squarely face the person with whom one has business.)
Máà gbíyè lógún; ti ọwọ́ ẹni ní ńtóni.
Place not your hopes in inheritance; the product of one's hand labor is what sustains one.
(Whoever trusts in inheritance courts disaster.)
“Má kọjá mi Olùgbàlà” kì í ṣe orin à-kúnlẹ̀-kọ.
“Pass me not by, dear Redeemer” is not a song one sings on one's knees.
(The Redeemer helps only those who make an effort in their own behalf.)
Màrìwò ò wí fúnra wọn tẹ́lẹ̀ tí wọ́n fi ńyọ.
Palm fronds do not consult with one another before they sprout.
(Each person is responsible for his/her own decisions.)
Màrìwò ò wojú ẹnìkan, àfi Ọlọ́run.
Palm fronds look up to no one except God.
(One's trust is in God only.)
Mo di arúgbó ọdẹ tí ńtu olú, mo di àgbàlagbà ọdẹ tí ńwa ògòǹgò láàtàn; mo di ògbólógbòó akítì tí ńgba ìbọn lọ́wọ́ ọdẹ.
I have become an aged hunter reduced to gathering mushrooms; I have become an old hunter good only for digging palm-weevils; I have become an aged monkey that snatches the gun from the hunter's grip.
(A helpless person pushed to the wall will somehow find the means to put up a fight.
“Mo kúgbé” lehoro ńdún lóko; “Mo mówó rá” làparò ńdún lábà-a bàbà.
“I have perished!” is the cry of the hare in the bush; “I have destroyed things worth a lot of money!” is the cry of the partridge in the guinea-corn field.
(A worthless person can also be counted upon to destroy things of value.)
“Mo ṣe é tán” ló níyì; a kì í dúpẹ́ aláṣekù.
“I have completed the job” is what deserves praise; one does not thank people who leave a job only half done.
(Whatever one embarks upon, one should see through.)
Múlele múlèle: ilá tí ò mú lele ò léè so; ikàn tí ò mú lele ò léè wẹ̀wù ẹ̀jẹ̀.
High potency upon high potency: the okro that lacks high potency cannot fruit; the bitter tomato that lacks high potency cannot achieve the blood-red complexion.
(Sharpness is a requisite quality for success.)
“Ng ó lọ, ng ó lọ!” lobìnrín fi ńdẹ́rù ba ọkùnriń “Bóo lè lọ o lọ” lọkùnrín fi ńdẹ́rù ba obìnrin.
“I will leave you, I will leave you!” is the threat a woman flings at a man; “If you have a mind to leave, go ahead and leave!” is the retort a man throws at a woman.
(Every person in a relationship has something he/she can hold over the others.)
Ní inú ẹ̀gún, ní inú-u gọ̀gọ̀, ọmọ ayò a ṣara bòró.
In the midst of thorns, in the midst of crooked twigs, the ayò seeds remain smooth.
(A person who will thrive will do so in spite of adversities.)
Ní inú òfíì àti ọ̀láà, ọmọ páńdọ̀rọ̀ ńgbó.
Despite being blown hither and tither in the gale, the fruits of the sausage tree survive to maturity.
(Some people will thrive despite adversities.)
Ní inú òwú la ti ḿbù ṣènì òwú.
It is out of one's stock of cotton that one takes some for makeweight.
(It is to one's treasury that one resorts for investments to further build the treasury.)
Ní ọjọ́ eré nìyà ńdun ọ̀lẹ; kàkà kó wọlé kó jáde a fọwọ́ rọ igi, a pòṣé ṣàrà.
It is on the day of festivities that the lazy person is miserable; instead of going inside his room and emerging again “in other words, fetching gifts for the revelers” he leans his arms against a tree and hisses incessantly.
(Shiftless people eventually reap the disgrace of their laziness when they are unable to do what is socially expected of them.)
Ní teere, ní tèèrè, Ṣàngó ṣe bẹ́ẹ̀ ó jó wọjà.
Erratically, with almost imperceptible forward movement, just so Ṣàngó danced until he was at the market.
(If unimpeded or unattended to, a seemingly negligible development will eventually assume proportions one cannot ignore.)
42. Alágbaà is the title of the chief of the eégún (masqueraders), who are supposed to be partial to ọ̀lẹ̀lẹ̀, steamed bean-loaf.
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43. As the day waxes and the sun rises the masquerader's shroud would become uncomfortably hot, and strenuous exertions would become that much more of a trial.
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44. Both trees are huge, and there is supposedly some rivalry between them.
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45. The sieve's complaint would be either that it is incessantly agitated, or that it had been made full of holes.
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46. A sharp prickly plant found near rivers. It is presumed to be ever ready to attack.
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47. Ayò is a game played with the smooth hard seeds of the Heloptelea Grandis (ulmaceae) tree. See Abraham 84.
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48. The proverb refers to the sometimes sedate or erratic dancing of the cultists of the god Ṣàngó.
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