Tuesday, 31 October 2017

THE POETICS OF YORUBA PROVERBS IN NIGERIAN LITERATURE IN ENGLISH

October 31, 2017 Posted by Ademola Balogun No comments
Culled from an article written by Taofiq Adedayo Alabi (Ph.D.), University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria {taofiqalabi@rocketmail.com}

In the Yorùbá society, proverbs have been and still remain powerful and effective intruments of transmitting ideas, motive, knowlegde and social morality from generation to generations. This is because proverbs reflect societal values of the people. Like any other group of people, the Yorubas are interested in the maintenance of personal health and hygiene.Consequently several yoruba proverbs abound which may be used to ensure good health. Below we examine some proverbs and what they mean in usage. These proverbs have been taken form poems written by Yoruba authors writing in English.


Item Sampled Proverbs in English Original Texts in Yorùbá
Datum 1 The wise cripple forewarned never tarries to hear the crackle of cannons; never waits to see the bruises of battle (Olusunle, 1996: 67) Ogun asọtẹlẹ kii pa arọ ti o ba gbọn
Datum 2 (Let them rethink that) Wise sayings muttered in fragments make whole sense to the thoughtful mind (Olusunle, 1996: 68 ) Ọrọ diẹ l’ansọ fun ọmọluabi, t’o ba de’nu ẹ, a di odidi
Datum 3 When the elephant falls, the forest beholds a festival of assorted knives (Olusunle, 2001: 17) Orisiirisii ọbẹ l’anri l’ọjọ iku erin
Datum 4 If you cannot cover kola nuts with more leaves, do not strip it of the ones already there (Olafioye, 2002: 29) Bi a ko ba le ra asọ fun oku, a kii gba ti ara rẹ
Datum 5 He who over stays at the grave yard must surely see a ghost (Olafioye, 2002: 29) Ẹni ti o ba pẹ l’ori igbọnsẹ yoo ri abuke esinsin
Discussion

Datum 1: The wise cripple forewarned never tarries to hear the crackle of cannons; never waits to see the bruises of battle (Olusunle, 1996: 67) The use of proverbial and idiomatic expressions is a prominent means of exerting subtle influence on the audience to make them accept one’s views. Olusunle utilizes his fertile socio-cultural background in deploying peculiar expressions whose imports are very convincing and persuasive. Owing to his impeded mobility, a cripple who is wise (meaning someone who suffers from a deficiency) would not waste time in getting a task done since his incapacitation is likely to affect the speed with which the task is accomplished. This proverb is complementary to Ọ̀nà réré ni olójú jínjìn ti ń múẹkún sun (A person with deep eye socket would need to weep an extra mile for tears to roll down his cheeks). The proverb reiterates the wisdom in a timely heed to precautions earlier given. The entailed import of the proverb is that adversity awaits an individual who disregards the social order or who flouts the cultural expectation of the poeple. Generally, the proverb is used to instill decorum such that the addressee is is persuaded and warned against actions inimical to established social norms and standards.

Datum 2: (Let them rethink that) Wise sayings muttered in fragments make whole sense to the thoughtful mind (Olusunle, 1996: 68) It is interesting to admire the rhetorical markedness of his proverb most especially where the poet uses it to sound a note of finality in his collection. The opening stanza contains a wise-saying and the poem closes with another. The stylistic significance of this device in connection with the connotations of ‘Message’ is the emotive influence which it exerts on the readers’ sensibility to seriously consider the warnings wrapped in-between the lines, and eventually yield to his opinions. The proverb generates a persuasive implication of making the reader or audience, as the case might be, agree with his point of view paraded so far in the collection. It needs to be stated that the proverb in question is complementary to the general truth in the Yorùbá culture that ‘only the wise can dance to the tune of àgídìgbo (the proverbial drum). It should also be brought to the fore that these proverbial expressions were sourced from the linguistic context of Yorùbá socio-cultural milieu to foreground the beauty associated with succinctness and conciseness of expression. Knowing full well that ‘the word is an egg’ (Ọ̀súndáre, 2000), people should be watchful of their utterances as unguided expressions are hallmark of epistolary discourse.

Datum 3: When the elephant falls, the forest beholds a festival of assorted knives (Olusunle, 2001: 17) An elephant is considered the highest prize any hunter can take for his hunting game. The size of the beast is a metaphor of enormous treasure. So if the animal ‘falls’ (is hunted down), then all and sundry would have a fair share of its meat as àtàrí àjànàkú kìí ṣe ẹrù ọmọdé (the elephant’s head is more that what a single household can consume). ‘Assorted kinves’ here means people of different status: the high and the low; the rich and the poor; the young and the old; etc will partake in sharing its meat. Even the vultures and other beasts of the jungle will have their share of its crumbs. This proverb is used to show the colourfulness and mixed grills that accompany celebration of a prominent personality. The proverb contains an undertone of communal philosophy that binds Yorùbá people together regardless of the prevailing indices of social stratification. Particularly in the context of Olusunle’s poem, the proverb is used to instill vividness of description and intensification of meaning in addressing issues relating to nature and natural human interactions.

Datum 4: If you cannot cover kola nuts with more leaves, do not strip them of the ones already there (Olafioye, 2002: 29) Literally, the freshness of kola nuts is preserved by covering them with leaves. So if one removes the leaves meant for preserving the nuts, then, the nuts are exposed to risk of pest attacks among others. This proverb is used to advise the addressee on how best to handle a phenomenon to ensure its continued usefulness to the social system/humanity. The phenomenon may be tangible (e.g.make practical effort to maintain clean environment; one should not litter it) or intangible (e.g. promoting cultural ideals like decent dressing, instead of abating indecency). It is a euphemistic transliteration of its original form in Yoruba which is ‘If you cannot clothe the dead/corpse, do not strip it of his burial garment’. The ideology of brotherhood in Yoruba culture affirms that one should always be his brother’s keeper. If it is not possible for one to alleviate the burden of another, one should not compound his problem. In other words, if one finds it difficult to complement the effort of his neighbour to make life easier for him, one should not engage in any act that will create additional burdens for him. Hence, on a general note, the proverb is used to discourage one from doing anything that may hinder the smooth running of the social system if one cannot do anything to promote or accelerate it.

Datum 5:He who overstays at the grave yard must surely see a ghost (Olafioye, 2002: 29) The proverb admonishes one not to stay longer than necessary on a contentious issue. The direct transliteration of the original source is ‘Someone who stays longer than necessary in a toilet will definitely see a lame fly’. This wise saying encourages promptness and diligence. The understanding is that when one unduly prolongs the execution of a given task, or does not carry out an assignment as and when due, the result, when eventually completed may not be favourable or appreciated. For instance, if one’s responsibility to the social system is not effected to meet the societal needs and expectation in good time, the appreciation of the gesture is either lost totally or its glory diminished. Just as ‘a stitch in time saves nine’, a social role receives more recognition when it is timely performed. The bottom-line is that the Yorùbá people appreciate a timely and speedy execution of state projects to the benefit of all and sundry instead of allowing staleness and diminishing returns to set in.