Slaves working with tobacco in Virginia, by an unknown artist, 1670.

Below is the evergreen Yoruba poem: Ise Ni Ogun Ise, alongsides it’s English version as translated by Atanda Obatolu. We hope you find it just as beautiful and inspiring as we did.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Mrs Muinat Bassey (Amina Bassey’s mom who suggested the poem)

Ise Ni Ogun Ise

Ise ni ogun ise

Mura s’ise, ore mi

Ise ni afi n di eni giga

Bi a ko ba r’eni f’eyin ti,

Bi ole l’anri;

Bi ako ba r’eni gbekele,

Atera mo’se eni.


Iya re le l’owo l’owo,

Ki Baba re l’eshin le kan,

Ti o ba gb’oju l’e won;

O te tan ni mo so fun o.


Se ohun ti a ko ba fi ara jiya fun,

Kii le pe rara;

Ohun ti a ba fi ara sise fun,

Nii pe lowo eni.



Apa lara, igunpa ni iye kan

Ti Aiye ba n fe o loni,

Ti o ba l’owo l’owo,

Aiye a ma fe o l’ola;

Tabi ki o wa ni ipo atata,

Aiye a ye o si terinterin;

Sugbon je ki o di eni ti n rago,

Ki o ri bi aiye ti n yimu si o.


Ti o ba ri awon opo eniyan,

Ti n fi eko se erin rin

Dakun mase fi ara we won.


Iya nbe fun omo ti ko gbon,

Ekun nbe fun omo ti nsa kiri;

Ma fi Owuro sere, ore mi,

Mura s’ise – ojo nlo.


Ja itanna ti ntan, to tutu ti osi dara,

Maduro di ojo ola – akoko nsure tete.



Work is the panacea of penury,

Devote yourself to work, my friend,

For by hard-work do we attain greatness.

When there’s no supporter for one

One is regarded as lazy;

If there’s no one to depend on,

One must apply oneself to one’s occupation.



Your mother might be financially bouyant,

Your father might command many stables,

But should you even rely on them

Disappointment will greet you, I tell you!

You see – that which one hasn’t worked for,

Does not last a minute with one

But whatever one has sweated for,

One keeps forever.


Your arms and elbows are your family; only they can help you.

The world might want you today,

If you have much money to spare.

The world will love you tomorrow,

Say you’re in a position of influence.

The world will lavish smiles on you.

Oh, but do become a bit needy,

And see how really they feel about you.



So, when you come across the lot,

That make a mockery of education,

Do remove yourself from them.


For anguish sits in wait for the stupid child,

And tears await the restless.

Joke not with the dawn, dear pal

Work endlessly, dusk is near.


Pluck the morning lily – cool and pretty

Don’t await tomorrow morning, the passage of time is quick.




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