Monday, 1 February 2016

Phaedrus 2.2: how a man can become bald.

I am not a iuvenis anymore, though in my dreams I am - or rather: I have some unspecified age, but younger than I actually am.  The following fable is a warning for those who are real young men.  As no animals appear in this fable, it is more an anecdote, but as the stress falls on the didactic example, it is a fable according to ancient ideas of literary classification.
A young man had two women as rivals for his love, one young and one old. Both start picking out his hair in order the make him resembling their respective age: the old woman dark hair, the young white. As often, we should not judge a fable for its logic: a young man having white hair and confusing plucking out his hair with caressing.
I have grey hair and only here and there other with a darker shade as a poor reminiscence of what the colour once was. A young woman would spend quite some time picking out my hair till I resemble more or less here age. Would I mind? Certainly not! Well Leo, keep dreaming.

Phaedrus 2.2. Anus Diligens Iuvenem, Item Puella.

A feminis utcumque spoliari viros,
ament, amentur, nempe exemplis discimus.
Aetatis mediae quendam mulier non rudis
tenebat, annos celans elegantia,
animosque eiusdem pulchra iuvenis ceperat.
ambae, videri dum volunt illi pares,
capillos homini legere coepere invicem.
qui se putaret fingi cura mulierum,
calvus repente factus est; nam funditus
canos puella, nigros anus evellerat.

diligo dilexi dilectum: to love
spolio: to rob
nempe: certainly
aetatis mediae with mulier
quendam (iuvenem, virum)
non rudis: i.e having experience
celo: to conceal
elegantia: i.e. by using make up
illi pares: equal to him (regarding their age)
lego: to pick out (as for the meaning `to read’: pick out letters. The German word for `to read’ is lesen (Dutch lezen). This word is in fact a loan translation of lego, as the original meaning of lesen is to pick out, gather.)
invicem: in turn
fingo finxi fictum: to touch (gently)
calvus: bald
repente: suddenly
funditus: completely
canus: white
evello evelli evolsum (evulsum):  to tear out

Translation by Christopher Smart (1913).

The Bald-pate Dupe
Fondling or fondled-any how-
(Examples of all times allow)
That men by women must be fleeced.
A dame, whose years were well increased,
But skill'd t' affect a youthful mien,
Was a staid husband's empress queen;
Who yet sequestered halt his heart
For a young damsel, brisk and smart.
They, while each wanted to attach
Themselves to him, and seem his match,
Began to tamper with his hair.
He, pleased with their officious care,
Was on a sudden made a coot;
For the young strumpet, branch and root,
Stripp'd of the hoary hairs his crown,
E'en as th' old cat grubb'd up the brown.

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