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


br ej j k t m ej ml.
Fear of the snake keeps one from stepping on the young of the snake.
(One usually benefits from the stature or position of one's parents or protector.)

Ibi gbogbo n r db lrn.
Every place is hospitable and comfortable for the dove.
(Said to mean that no circumstance will be beyond one's ability to cope.) [33]

Ibi gbogbo nil w.
Every place deserves to be treated with respect and reverence.
(Decorous behavior is not for certain occasions only.)

Ibi t a n k gbgb m gb, ib n gb.
The spot one cautions the gbgb plant not to inhabit, there it will surely inhabit.
(One will fulfill one's destiny, whatever others might do to prevent one.)
Compare the following entry.

Ibi t a n k tt m t, ib n t.
Wherever one orders wild spinach not to step on, there it will surely trample.
(The destinies of certain people defy manipulation by adversaries.) [34]
Compare the preceding entry.

Ibo ni im w snu? Ibo ni Llt- w s rw?
How much distance exists between the nose and the mouth? How much distance exists between Llt and rw?
(One should not make a fuss over running an errand that is not a great imposition.) [35]

Id k l kd m b.
The sword never departs without returning.
(Said in the context of a prayer that a person departing on a journey might return safely.)

dra kan gb.
Ease has nothing to do with age.
(Industry pays off more surely than longevity.)

Igi k d lko k pa ar il.
A tree does not snap in the forest and kill a person at home.
(Disaster cannot befall a person who is not in an exposed position.)

Ignnugn pa guuru md; k le gbe.
The vulture rushes at the chicken, but it cannot carry it off.
(One should not attempt what one knows one cannot accomplish.)

Igba einin k dn de w.
Two hundred flies will not lie in ambush for a broom.
(Despite their number, one's adversaries are no match for one.) [36]
Compare Igba ranko . . .

Igba ranko k dn de kn.
Two hundred animals will not lie in ambush for a leopard.
(One should exercise prudence and realize when an adversary is more than a match for one.)
Compare Igba einin . . .

gb y lr? Argb kgba.
Is it just morning now? The old man is striving to make two hundred heaps a day.
(The efforts that would have been commendable if timely are now worthless.)

gb y lr? Argb oge.
Is it just morning now? The old person is grooming himself/herself.
(Never wait until it is too late before you look to your well being.)

gb a gb yw k gb ow.
The strategy one adopts in acquiring a wife will not do with regard to money.
(What suffices in a certain situation may not be applicable in another.)

Igbe k-ni-ng-j-sn n pl.
The cry What shall I eat for supper? is what kills the lazy person.
(The lazy person will rather put his/her efforts into lamenting his/her fate than into gainful employment.)

gbn k tnu mgi k m gn n.
The snail will not fasten unto a tree and fail to climb it.
(Once one takes on a job, one should see it through.)

gbn k mm ej.
The snail rejects the fate of being swallowed by a snake.
(There are some perils to which one is immune.)

j m gbn, s br dakin.
Fighting knows not who is the elder; it makes a hero of the younger.
(In certain situations, prowess is more important than age.)
Compare Ow m gbn, s br dgb.

je un oore n m m i.
Competition and reward are the inducements for a child to work hard.
(It is the wish to at least keep up with others or the hope for a reward that makes one work hard.)

j nd-i n; il lm w ti fnn l sko.
The j (person) does not need matches; it is from the home that the scion of wa takes burning faggots to the farm.
(Said to assert self-sufficiency, that one does not need the aid of other people.) [37]

jkj k pa ahanrandi.
Careless eating does not kill the worm ahanrandi.
(One can do what one pleases without fear of repercussion.)

Ikn l r e lra gnn.
The termite can have no adverse effect on a wall.
(Certain things are invulnerable to certain disasters.)

kk t y j ata, d gbn.
The pot that wishes to eat pepper (stew) will first endure a scalded bottom.
(Good things come only after great labor or suffering.)

k k k ej ls.
A snare never catches a snake in the leg.
(One will remain invulnerable to any danger.) [38]

Ik t m i- j n j lmeje.
It is the messenger who does not know how to deliver a message properly that delivers it seven times over.
(Incompetence imposes additional burden on a person.)

Il k ga ju akr l k m t k.
The okro plant is never so much taller than the harvester that he/she cannot bend it to harvest.
(The conscientious worker will always find the means to complete his/her task.)

Il t a t kun, a k bo tf-u r.
A house one is in a position to burn, one does not conceal the torch to set it ablaze.
(One need not be coy in doing what one has the authority or standing to do.)
Compare the following entry.

Il t a t l sn lsn-n, a k t ru l sn n.
A house one has the right to sleep in during the day, one does not wait for the cover of night to go sleep in it.
(One should not be coy about doing what one has the right to do.)
Compare the preceding entry.

lr ad, asn ni lj wd.
The chicken's boasts are unavailing before the kite.
(The puny person who threatens a formidable person fools him/herself.)

lk- gb or t wu l.
Beads remain on the display tray and from there attract the admiration of the feckless person.
(The feckless person can only admire desirable things, but will not have the means to purchase them.)

lk pl y ol lj.
Frogs' eggs do not attract the attention of the thief.
(If one has nothing for others to covet, one is safe from envy.)

lrin l; nu l lrin.
The Ilorin person has no god;; his/her mouth is his/her god.
(The person under reference is all mouth and no substance.)
Cf. l lgn . . .

mmn abd semb-semb; mmn dn r, tin-tin n b kiri.
Firefly with its rear ablaze; the firefly has never kindled a fire, but it carries fire with it wherever it goes.
(Said of people who want results without making any effort.)

In k j k giri s.
Fire does not rage and cause a wall to flee.
(Certain entities are invulnerable to certain dangers.)

In k j k wl akn.
A fire does not rage and enter the home of the crab.
(An incantatory observation invoking immunity for a person from some danger.)

pa po ara l fi san.
Our attempt to kill the o tree only makes it fatter.
(Some people prosper in spite of their enemies' machinations.)

pta l pn.
The sap of the violet tree is what the bachelor uses for soap.
(A person who lacks the means to properly provide for himself/herself must be resourceful at making do.)

pil r- lgbin.
The beginning of wealth is chock-full of filth.
(Success comes after great effort and much headache.)
This is a variant of sl r- lgbin.

pnj gb ju dn kan.
A farmer's suffering will not last longer than a year.
(Every reversal has its end.) [39]

pnj lmd fi kF, gbhn-in r a dni.
A child's learning of If is full of privations, but the outcome is a life of ease.
(The ease that comes in the end makes up for the effort one makes to achieve one's goal.)

Ire t w- mi t, ma fi gg f .
The good my hand cannot reach, I will pull down with a hooked stick.
(I will spare no effort in pursuit of my goals.)

rk ti ldn ltrun.
The sugar-cane came with its sweetness from heaven.
(An illustrious person's qualities are native, not conferred by admirers.) [40]

rkr k f oj.
Evil sights do not make the eyes go blind.
(There is nothing in the offing that one cannot withstand.)

Irnw fn, gbrin wo, ogn-un Fln, j-i bt; gdol whn t fi l Adalo lgb.
Four hundred buffaloes with eight hundred horns, twenty Fulbe men and forty shoes; gdol did not look back until he had chased Adalo into the bush.
(Comment on a formidable man who does not flinch before any enemy.)

rj baba l.
Shirking work is the father of laziness.
(The person who will not work is worse than a lazy person.)

rk o-ngun-mrn-dn-lgn t erin-n gbm, btor t a-lara-boro-boro.
An rk stick with sixteen edges is nothing for an elephant to swallow, much less the melon fruit with a smooth body.
(A person not defeated by a formidable obstacle will certainly not be stopped by a minor irritant.)

rn kok n y pa aj.
Worrying about the wolf is what will kill the dog.
(Some people are already vanquished by the mere anticipation of a struggle.)

rj ni ohun gbogbo; ojoojm n rni.
Perseverance is everything; one gets tired daily.
(One should not fold up in the face of the first trial.)
Compare ynj l gb . . .

sl r- lgbin.
The dregs of wealth is filthy.
(Wealth comes only after one has endured a great deal of rubbish.)
This is a variant of pil r lgbin.

Isn bj, tl ws.
Nine days wash the face, thirteen days wash the feet.
(Said of a person who takes eternity to do simple things.)

I aj le, t pa.
Gainful employment is tough, as tough as a supple pole.
(Gainful work is not easy.) [41]

k e ohun mer; y k e ohun mwd.
Destitution is not something to treat with levity; misery is nothing to joke about.
(One should not trifle with one's problems.)

I logn .
Work is the antidote for destitution.
(One must work in order to better one's condition.)

roj; ta ni y fn-n ni ogn-un r?
Destitution grips you and you sit scowling; who will give you the antidote?
(One should take practical steps to solve one's problem rather than sit around moping.)

n un kw; y- n un singb; rderde- n un e ongbw; ta n j rere nn-u wn?
Destitution proposes to trade its services for money; suffering proposes to pawn itself for money; wretchedness proposes to stand surety for them; which of them has anything going for it?
(In a community of losers no one person can be expected to turn the situation around.)

gbkn, eb jre l.
Destitution does not yield to tears; hunger has a claim on the shiftless.
(One does not end one's destitution by simple lamentation; whoever does not work is a fair victim to hunger.)

I gr ll m- e; k j w i agbra.
The lazy person knows how to do only things that call for little effort; he/she never seeks out work that demands strength.
(Said of those who always seek the easiest way out of a dilemma.)

t m lgn dn, y t j m lgbn o, b k pa m, a s lhn m.
The poverty that has plagued a child for twenty years, the suffering that has been the fate of a child for thirty months, if it does not kill the child it should leave the child in peace.
(Perseverance puts an eventual end to all suffering.)

I-aj--gb-bji, m jkt.
Gainful-work-does-not-keep-to-the-shade; his/her child is named First-up-at-dawn.
(Success in life calls for self-sacrifice.)

Iu tnum k jn; k tnum k mr; wd k gb ad -tnu-kunkun-m.
The yam one does not stop speaking about will not get burnt; the corn-meal one speaks constantly about does not become too well-done; a chicken that is the subject of constant caution does not get snatched up by a hawk.
(Anything that is the subject of constant attention will not be ruined.)

Iu ni k fini pe md k m ta.
One's yam will not because one is only a youth refuse to grow to maturity.
(Even a youth can accomplish much if he/she makes an effort.)

I w lw ; b w lw .
The yam is in your hand, and the knife is in your hand.
(Said to encourage one to do what he/she has to do without further delay, especially when all requisite conditions have been met.)

w l ba l lr; l pdn, n ary frn un.
The lazy person's character fills him/her with fear; the lazy person loses all and complains that the world hates him/her.
(Each person is more the architect of his/her own fortune than the victim of others' machinations.)

wy ewr-a baba- m ti ta; rgn rere s nb.
By this time last year my father's water-yam had grown huge; that is nothing good to reminisce about.
(One should look to the present instead of dwelling on past achievements, and others' at that.)

y t j l kr; a-lp-m-i.
The malaise that afflicts the lazy person is not trifling; one-who-has-arms-that-will-not-work.
(Laziness is a great affliction.)

ynj l gb; b a gbynj b l l r; ojoojm n rni.
One simply makes an effort; if one does not make an effort one seems like a shiftless person; one copes with weariness daily.
(In spite of weariness, one must still make a decent effort at one's calling.)
Compare rj ni ohun gbogbo . . .

yw, ys laj fi pa ehoro; wr-wr lkn gn.
Nimble hands and nimble feet make it possible for a dog to kill a rabbit; the leopard attacks its prey with lightning speed.
(One should be brisk about what one has to do.)


33. It is also used in the context of a prayer to wish that wherever the addressee goes he/she will always find ease and comfort.  [Back to text]


34. The proverb is often used in a sort of incantation or prayer to wish (or assert) that a person would never be vulnerable to his/her enemies. The verb t means to step as on a spot; it is used here in a play of words, because the name for wild spinach seems to be a reduplication of the verb.  [Back to text]


35. Llt and rw are neighboring villages in the bdn orbit. The proverb suggests they are as close as the mouth is to the nose, and a person sent on an errand from one to the other should not complain.  [Back to text]


36. A broom is a favorite weapon for killing flies.  [Back to text]


37. Before the white man came with his matches people knew how to make fire. This is obviously a proverb coined in Il, home of the j, whose king is the w. The nd (n d) translates literally as have a reason for, but it is a play on the English need.  [Back to text]


38. This is used in the context of prayers.  [Back to text]


39. The annual ripening of the harvest will end the suffering.  [Back to text]


40. The formulation applies the belief that heaven is where all things were created to the sugar-cane plant.  [Back to text]


41. pa, translated here as supple pole, can also refer to a masquerade in the jb area; carrying it is no easy task either.  [Back to text]