One thing I’ve come to learn about us Yoruba people is that we cherish hard work and often chastise laziness. While growing up, I was an ardent lover of reading and that included reading Yoruba literature.
I don’t know how or when exactly I learnt how to read Yoruba but I do remember one fateful summer holiday while staying with my grandparents. I was bored and tired and proceeded to look for anything I could read in the house; lucky for me, I came across an old and half-torn Yoruba text book (Alawiye by Joseph F. Odunjo) and reading it.
From that book, I read this Yoruba poem which has stuck in my head ever since. The title of the poem roughly translated means “Work is the cure for poverty”. I’m a poetry lover who also happens to be crazy about the Yoruba culture, this poem is a fusion of both. It’s a beautiful rendition about hard-work and poverty. Enjoy.
ISÉ NI ÒÒGÙN ÌSÉ/WORK IS THE CURE FOR POVERTY
Isé ni òògùn ìsé/Work is the antidote for poverty.
Múra sí isé re, òréè mi/Focus on work my friend
Isé ni a fi í di eni giga/Work makes one progress higher
Bí a kò bá réni fèyìn tì, bí òle là á rí/If you have no one to lean on, you seem lazy
Bí a ko réni gbékèlé/If we have no one to depend on
À a tera mó isé eni/we simply work harder.
Ìyá re lè lówó lówó/Your mother may be rich
Bàbá re sì lè lésin léèkàn/And your father might have many horses
Bí o bá gbójú lé won/If you depend on their wealth
O té tán ni mo so fún o/You’ll be disgraced, I’m telling you
Ohun tí a kò ba jìyà fún/ Whatever you didn’t work hard to earn
Kì í tójó rara/ Never lasts long
Ohun tí a bá fara sisé fún/It’s what you sweat for
Ní í pé lówó eni/Is what will last long with you
Apá lará/Your arm is your relative
Igùnpá nìyekan/Your elbow is your family
Bí ayé ba n fé o lónìí/If people love you today
Bí o bá lówó lówó/As long as you’re rich
Ni won á máa fé o lóla/They will love you tomorrow
Tàbí kí o bá wà ní ipò àtàtà/Or perhaps you hold an important position,
Ayé á ma ri o sí tèrín-tèrín/ they will smile with you
Jé kí o di eni n ráágó/Once you become destitute,
Kí o rí báyé ti í yímú sí o/then see how they’ll mock you
and you will see how all grimace at you as they pass you by.
Èkó sì tún n soni í dògá/Also education takes one higher
Múra kí o kó o dáradára/Pay attention and learn well
Bí o sì rí òpò ènìyàn/If you see many people
Tí wón n fi èkó se èrín rín/Making a mockery of education
Dákun má se fara wé won/Please do not behave like them
Ìyà n bò fómo tí kò gbón/Suffering will come for the stubborn child
Ekún n be fómo tó n sá kiri/And tears are reserved for the truant one
Má fòwúrò seré, òréè mi/Don’t play with your morning (youth), my friend
Múra sísé, ojó n lo/Work hard, the day is far spent
The poem is very inspirational and simply advises to focus hard on your work, get educated. Even if there’s no history of poverty in your family, never depend on your family riches. Instead work hard to make yours. When you’re wealthy, it might seem that a lot of people like you. But when poverty come is when you’ll know their true thoughts and intentions towards you. Basically, make hay while the sun shines.