Friday, September 30, 2011

Quotes for Friday from Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman (I)

Again, like Ola Rotimi's The gods are not to blame, these quotes are more of proverbs than they are of quotes. Proverbs and riddles are traditional ways of speaking in most African countries and a good speaker is one who is able to communicate using the appropriate proverbs to carry out his message. In most cases, an adept speaker would use only proverbs and the listener is expected to grasp the meaning, just like a mathematician would use mathematical symbols to communicate to other mathematicians. In fact, in Ghana, the very word for a gathering, where chiefs or other traditional elders or where something important is about to take place is translated as 'proverb market', (in Twi, b'adwam or Bε Dwam). The following proverbs are not exhaustive:

Because the man approaches a brand-new bride he forgets the long long faithful mother of his children.

When the horse sniffs the stable does he not strain at the bridle?

[W]hen the wind blows cold from behind, that's when the fowl knows his true friends.

The hands of women also weaken the unwary.

There is only one home of the life of a river mussel; there is only one home to the life of a tortoise; there is only one shell to the soul of man; there is only one world to the spirit of our race.

The cockerel must not be seen without his feathers.

A life that will outlive fame and friendship begs another name.

Even a tear-veiled eye preserves its function of sight.

When time is short, we do not spend it prolonging the riddle.

A fault soon remedied is soon forgiven.

An anthill does not desert its roots.

We cannot see the still great womb of the world - no man beholds his mother's womb, yet who denies it's there?

The waters of the bitter stream are honey to a man whose tongue has savoured all.

No one knows when the ants desert their home; they leave the mound intact.

How can man talk against death to person in uniform of death?


  1. I am still holding out hope that i will pick more soyinka's to read. Interesting lines.

  2. With your vast reading experience, it is still a wonder that you've not read a Soyinka yet. I still hold on to the hope that you'll definitely read one soon. Or...


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