16 May 2013

Ise logun ise – The antidote to poverty is hard work

This Yoruba poem was one of many I enjoyed as a young boy in primary school. It’s probably one of my best poems ever. 

I can remember reciting it, usually in the afternoons, with my classmates in my second or third year of elementary school. It was meant to teach children the importance of hard work. I suppose it teaches adults as well the value of dignity in labour

It also teaches self-reliance and the futility of depending on others - parents, family or friends.

It teaches that the antidote to poverty is hard work.

It encourages readers to redeem the time and not waste their ‘early years’ – a period the Yorubas refer to as ‘the morning’.

The poem is also unequivocal about the consequence of a lackadaisical approach to life.

For me, it is a call to do something with your life. It is about consistency in doing whatsoever you do without looking back. It's about making hay while the sun shines. It is recognising that though you may start small, there is a brighter future ahead. And even when the odds are stacked against you, your experience and journey are priceless. 

So if you are conscientious with your work, keep it up, the dividends will come. If you are not, take heed to the poem and focus.

I came across an attempt to translate it into English recently. It occurred to me that it should be published for everyone to read not only for its rich content but also because it shows the whole world the depth of the values we have so easily lost.  Values we will hopefully retrieve.

I have added some of my own translation where necessary to make the poem more relevant


"Ise logun ise - The antidote to poverty is hard work 

Mura si se re, ore mi 
So work hard, dear friend

Ise la fi ndeni giga 
Success only comes through hard work

Bi a ko ba reni fehin ti 
When there is no one to rely on

Bi ole la a ri 
It’s like we are lazy

Bi a ko ba reni gbekele, 
When there is no one to trust

A te ra mo se ni. 
We focus on our work

Iya re le lowo lowo 
Your mum may be rich

Baba re le lesin lekan 
Your dad may own a thousand and one horses

Ti o ba gbojule won 
If you rely on their wealth

O te tan ni mo so fun o 
You are sinking fast to your shame.

Ohun ti a ko ba jiya fun
Whatever we do not work for

Se kii le tojo
Will not last

Ohun ti a ba fara sise fun
It is what we strive for

Ni npe lowo eni
That endures

Apa lara igupa ni ye kan 
Your arms and elbows are your instruments of work

B'aiye ba fe o loni 
If you are feted by society today

Ti o ba lowo lowo, won a tun fe o lola 
If you are still rich, they will fete you tomorrow as well.

Abi ko wa nipo atata 
When you hold an esteemed position

Aiye a ye o si terin terin 
You will be regarded with great joy

Je ki o deni ti nrago 

Just wait and become a pauper

Ko ri bi aiye ti nyin mu si o 
And see how you will be treated with disdain

Eko si tun seni doga
Education can take you to the top

Mura ki o ko dara-dara
So study hard 

Iya mbe fomo ti ko gbon
The unwise will surely regret their folly

Ekun mbe fomo ti o nsa kiri 
The outcome for lack of planning is tears

Mafowuro sere ore mi 
Don’t waste your early years

Mura sise ojo nlo. 
Make hay while the sun shines."

My sincere hope is that you will find a use for this poem. PostcardfromLagos

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Greetings from Austria.
You done a great a job.
muri Iginla