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~ Abai Kunanbaev ~


Word Twenty-Nine

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Some Kazakh sayings merit attention and some do not, for they do not carry anything divine or human in them.

The Kazakhs say: "If you live in need, forget your shame." Cursed be the life that knows no shame! But if the proverb counsels one not to shun any hard work, however lowly, there is nothing shameful in such work. An upright man should earn his bread honestly, not live on alms or sit back in indolence.

"A clever fellow can set even the snow on fire", "You can get anything, if you know how to ask". These are words condemned by God! Is it not better to get riches from the earth by the sweat of your brow rather than rely on cunning and beg for crumbs from another man's table?

"If your name is unknown, set the field on fire." But what need do you have of notoriety?

"Better one day as a stallion than a hundred days as a gelding." But what's the good of one day spent in wild dissipation that leaves only ravages in its wake? "Even an angel will stray from the path at the sight of gold." What does an angel need gold for? By this saying people merely try to justify their avarice.

"A treasure chest is dearer than father and mother, but your own life is dearer than a palace of gold." Now, what price can be placed on the life of the scoundrel who values a treasure chest more than his parents? Only a person without reason and honor can exchange father and mother for gold. Parents work to get rich for the good of their children, and he who equates his parents with treasure commits an ungodly deed.

One should be cautious about repeating proverbs born of bigotry and thoughtlessness.

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