Thursday, 23 February 2017

Phaedrus 5.3: an irritating fly.



Looking for another book, I found Speyer’s Phaedri Fabulae Aesopi (1912). Since I had to reshuffle my books and have far more double rows now, some books are at erratic places. Speyer was professor of Latin at my hometown Groningen and later became professor of Sanskrit at Leyden. Sanskrit was his first and foremost love and his publications on that language are far more important than his contributions to Latin. Still, the date of publication suggests that also during his professorship in Sanskrit he did not forget Latin. The book fell open on a page telling the story of a bald man and a fly. Bitten by a fly, the poor man hit himself trying to kill his adversary.
Nothing can by more irritating than a fly unceasingly trying to bite or indeed managing to bite. I am rather clumsy in capturing flies, but to my luck, flies take little to no interest in my blood. A friend of mine, with whom I use to hike twice a year, is always heavily attacked during the night, while I have mostly nothing.

Phaedrus 5.3: Calvus et musca.

Calvi momordit musca nudatum caput;
Quam opprimere captans alapam sibi duxit gravem.
Tunc illa irridens: Punctum volucris parvulae
Voluisti morte ulcisci; quid facies tibi,
Iniuriae qui addideris contumeliam?
Respondit: Mecum facile redeo in gratiam,
Quia non fuisse mentem laedendi scio.
Sed te, contempti generis animal improbum,
Quae delectaris bibere humanum sanguinem,
Optem necare vel maiore incommodo.
Hoc argumentum veniam ei dari docet
Qui casu peccat. Nam qui consilio est nocens,
Illum esse quavis dignum poena iudico.

mordeo momordi morsum: to bite
capto: to try, to seek
alapa: a stroke or blow upon the cheek with the open hand, a box on the ear
alapam duco: to give a blow
irrideo irrisi: to laugh at
volucris –is (f.): anything that can fly
parvulus: diminutive of parvus
ulcicsor ultus: to revenge
contumelia: insult (i.e. by giving himself a hard blow)
red-ire in gratiam cum aliquo: to reconcile with someone
mentem laedendi: intention of hurting
improbus: shameless
delector: to delight
bibo bibi: to drink
opto: to wish
neco: to kill
vel: even
incommodum: inconvenience, injury
argumentum: moral
veniam do: to forgive
casu: unintentionally
consilio: on purpose
dignus (+ abl.): worthy of

Translation by C. Smart (1913)

The Bald Man and the Fly

As on his head she chanced to sit,
A Man's bald pate a Gadfly bit;
He, prompt to crush the little foe,
Dealt on himself a grievous blow:
At which the Fly, deriding said,
" You that would strike an insect dead
For one slight sting, in wrath so strict,
What punishment will you inflict
Upon yourself, who was so blunt
To do yourself this gross affront ?"-
"0," says the party, "as for me,
I with myself can soon agree.
The spirit of th' intention's all;
But thou, detested cannibal!
Blood-sucker! to have thee secured
More would I gladly have endured."
What by this moral tale is meant
Is-those who wrong not with intent
Are venial; but to those that do
Severity, I think, is due.

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