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Part 4: On perseverance, industry, resilience, self-confidence, self-reliance, resourcefulness, daring, fortitude, and invulnerability


Ebè kan ṣoṣo àkùrọ́ kúrò ní “Mo fẹ́rẹ̀ẹ́ ṣíwọ́.”
A single heap on the farm does not warrant “I am just about done.”
(The first step is not nearly the completion of a long journey.)

Ebi ni yó kọ̀ọ́ wèrè lọ́gbọ́n.
It is hunger that will force sense into the imbecile.
(Even an imbecile must heed hunger.)

Ebí ńpa ejò, ahún ńyan.
The snake is hungry, and the tortoise saunters by.
(If one is invulnerable, one may strut.)

Ebi ò jẹ́ ká pa ọwọ́ mọ́; ebí ṣenú papala.
Hunger keeps one from folding one's hands; hunger causes the mouth “or cheeks” to shrink.
(One must work in order to eat.)

Èébú kì í so.
Insults do not attach to one's body like pods.
(Insult ignored is insult defused.)

Èdì kì í mú ọjọ́ kó má là.
No charm can act upon the day and keep it from dawning.
(What is inevitable will come to pass, willy-nilly.)

Eégún tí ńjẹ orí ẹṣin, orí àgbò ò lè kò ó láyà.
The masquerader who is accustomed to eating horse heads will not be daunted by ram heads.
(A person who has faced down serious challenges will not be defeated by a slight inconvenience.)
Compare: Ojú tó ti rókun ò lè rọ́sà kó bẹ̀rù.

Èkó ilá gba ara ẹ̀ lọ́wọ́ ọ̀bẹ.
Okro that has gone fibrous has delivered itself from the knife.
(At some point, one outgrows some dangers.)

Èminrin ńjẹni, kò tó ìyà.
Being bothered by sandflies is no misfortune.
(Whatever one's problems, they can always be worse.)

Èpè ìbínú ò pa odì.
An angry curse does not kill an enemy.
(One gets only psychological satisfaction from cursing one's enemy.)

Èpè ìlasa kì í ja àgbọ̀nrín.
The curses of okro leaves do not affect the deer.
(One cannot be at risk for what one cannot help doing.) [16]

Èpò ìbúlẹ̀ kì í pa irẹ́.
Creeping weeds cannot kill the silk rubber tree.
(A puny person is no threat to a mighty person.)

Erín jẹ̀ jẹ̀ jẹ̀ kò fọwọ́ kọ́ aṣá; ẹfọ̀nọ́n jẹ̀ jẹ̀ jẹ̀ kò ki ẹsẹ̀ wọ pòòlò; ẹyẹ kékèké ńfò lókè wọn ò forí gbági.
The elephant forages a long time without cutting its hand on a spear; the buffalo forages a long time without falling into a trap; numerous small birds fly across the sky without colliding with trees.
(Despite the ubiquitousness of danger, one will be safe.)

Èṣì ò rọ́ba dádé; Ògúnṣọṣẹ́ ò róòrùn wẹ̀wù ẹ̀jẹ̀; òdòdó ò róòrùn pọ́n; ilé ọmọ lọmọ́ ti pọ́n wá.
Error does not await the king before it dons a crown; Ogunṣọṣẹ [17] does not wait for the sun before it dons a bloody cloak; the flower does not wait for the sun before it brightens; brightness comes with the child from its house.
(Native genius needs no external cultivation.)

Eṣinṣín ńpọntí; ekòló ńṣú ọ̀lẹ̀lẹ̀; kantí-kantí ní ká wá ǹkan dí agbè lẹ́nu kí ǹkankan má kòó sí i.
The fly is procuring wine while the worm is cooking bean-meal, and the sugar-fly asks them to find something to cork the gourd so nothing would enter into it.
(The idler seeks to find more work for those already fully and usefully employed.)

Eṣú jẹ oko tán eṣù lọ; eṣú lọ Wata, ilé-e rẹ̀.
The locusts are done feeding, the locusts have departed; the locusts have gone to Wata, their home.
(When one's task is completed, one returns to one's home. Or, The marauder has done his damage and has returned to where he came from.)

Èèwọ̀ ni tọwọ̀; a kì í figi ọwọ̀ dáná.
As far as the broom is concerned it is taboo: one does not make kindling of broomsticks.
(Come what may, a threatening or threatened disaster will not happen.)

Ewu iná kì í pa àwòdì.
The African black kite is never killed in a brushfire emergency.
(The bird is beyond any harm the fire might do.) [18]

Ewúrẹ́ ńṣọdún, àgùtán gbàlù sẹ́hìn, òbúkọ-ọ́ ní ká sin òun lọ sílé àna òun.
The goat is celebrating an event, the sheep is in a procession with drums, and the he-goat asks to be accompanied to its in-law's home.
(A person who has made no investment should not expect to reap the benefits of the venture.)

Ewúrẹ́ ò lè rí ewé ọdán òkè fi ṣe nǹkan.
A goat can in no wise take the fig tree's leaves aloft for any purpose.
(Certain people are beyond the reach of some people's machinations.)

Ewúro ò fi tojo korò.
The bitter-leaf did not become bitter as a result of cowardice.
(One does what one must, regardless of the actions or wishes of others.)

Èèyàn ìbáà kúrú, ìbáà búrẹ́wà, gbèsè ò sí, ìtìjú ò sí.
Whether a person be short or ugly, if there is no debt, there can be no disgrace.
(As long as one is debt-free other details of one's personal circumstances are of little consequence.)


16. Okro is the favorite food of deer; for that reason if okro curses deer the curse is in vain.  [Back to text]


17. The name means “Ògún (the god of iron) has caused a disaster.”  [Back to text]


18. It is used in the context of an incantation to ward off all disaster.  [Back to text]