Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Phaedrus: The eagle and the crow.

An eagle (aquila) once held a tortoise (testitudo, f.) in the air, but as this animal was safely hidden in his shell, the eagle had no clue how to eat this creature. Then the eagle is advised by a crow (cornix, f.) to drop the tortoise on a rock to break the shell. Now the tortoise has no way to escape its fate.
This story is, like most of Phaedrus’ fables, based on Aesop, but with a difference: in Aesop version the tortoise asks the eagle to lift him in the air, as he wanted to fly. By leaving this out, Phaedrus makes the tortoise a completely innocent victim of the powerful eagle and its wicked advisor. Through the ages up to our time examples are easy to find.

Phaedrus 2.6, Aquila et Cornix.

Contra potentes nemo est munitus satis;
si vero accessit consiliator maleficus,
vis et nequitia quicquid oppugnant, ruit.
Aquila in sublime sustulit testudinem.
quae cum abdidisset cornea corpus domo
nec ullo pacto laedi posset condita,
venit per auras cornix et propter volans:
Opimam sane praedam rapuisti unguibus;
sed nisi monstraro quid sit faciendum tibi,
gravi nequiquam te lassabit pondere.
Promissa parte suadet, ut scopulum super
altis ab astris duram illidat corticem,
qua comminuta facile vescatur cibo.
Inducta verbis aquila, monitis paruit,
simul et magistrae large divisit dapem.
Sic tuta quae naturae fuerat munere,
impar duabus occidit tristi nece.

munio munivi munitum: to protect
satis: sufficiently
consiliator –oris (m.): counsellor
maleficus: wicked
quicquid …, ruit = quicquid ruit, (quod).. (everything falls down, what etc.)
nequitia: wickedness (vis refers to the potentes, nequitia to the consiliator maleficus)
in sublime: high in the air
abdo abdidi abditum: to hide (= condo)
corneus: made of horn
nec ullo pacto: in no way
laedo laesi laesum: to hurt, damage
propter (adv.): nearby
opimus: fat, plump
sane: indeed
praeda: booty
rapio rapui raptum: to snatch
unguis unguis (m.): nail, claw
monstraro = monstravero
nequiquam: in vain
lasso: to tire
pondus ponderis (n.) : weight
promissa parte: i.e. of the praeda
suadeo suasi suasum: to advise
scopulus: rock (scopulum super = super scopulum)
altis ab astris: from high in the air
illido illiso illisum: to dash to pieces
cortex cortices (m. and by poets f.): shell
qua comminuta: which having been broken (comminuo, ui utum)
vescor (+ abl.): to eat
cibus: food
inducta: lead
monitum: advice
pareo parui (+ dat.): to yield
simul: at once
magistrae: i.e. the cornex
large: generously
daps dapis (f.): meal
naturae munere: by work of nature
impar imparis (+ dat.): ill-matched
occidit from occĭdo , occĭdi, occāsum: to fall down
nex necis (f.): violent death

Translation by Christopher Smart (1912).

The Eagle, Carrion Crow, and Tortoise.

No soul can warrant life or right,
Secure from men of lawless might;
But if a knave's advice assist,
'Gainst fraud and force what can exist ?
An Eagle on a Tortoise fell,
And mounting bore him by the shell:
She with her house her body screens,
Nor can be hurt by any means.
A Carrion Crow came by that way,
" You've got," says she, " a luscious prey;
But soon its weight will make you rue,
Unless I show you what to do."
The captor promising a share,
She bids her from the upper air
To dash the shell against a rock,
Which would be sever'd by the shock.
The Eagle follows her behest,
Then feasts on turtle with his guest.
Thus she, whom Nature made so strong,
And safe against external wrong,
No match for force, and its allies,
To cruel death a victim dies.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Ovid: courting at the races.

Ovid’s Ars Amatoria is a collection of three poems devoted to how to win a woman. Due to its sometimes explicit descriptions, it has been controversial since its publication. Notwithstanding that, it was used as a school text during the Middle Ages. In this extract Ovid gives advice how to court a girl at the races. His tips are still useful.

Ovidius, Ars Amatoria 1,135-62

Nec te nobilium fugiat certamen equorum;               135
     multa capax populi commoda Circus habet.
Nil opus est digitis, per quos arcana loquaris,
     Nec tibi per nutus accipienda nota est:
proximus a domina, nullo prohibente, sedeto,
     iunge tuum lateri qua potes usque latus;               140
et bene, quod cogit, si nolis, linea iungi,
     quod tibi tangenda est lege puella loci.
Hic tibi quaeratur socii sermonis origo,
     Et moveant primos publica verba sonos.
Cuius equi veniant, facito, studiose, requiras:               145
     Nec mora, quisquis erit, cui favet illa, fave.
At cum pompa frequens caelestibus ibit eburnis,
     tu Veneri dominae plaude favente manu;
utque fit, in gremium pulvis si forte puellae
     Deciderit, digitis excutiendus erit:               150
Etsi nullus erit pulvis, tamen excute nullum:
     quaelibet officio causa sit apta tuo.
Pallia si terra nimium demissa iacebunt,
     collige, et inmunda sedulus effer humo;
protinus, officii pretium, patiente puella               155
     contingent oculis crura videnda tuis.
Respice praeterea, post vos quicumque sedebit,
     Ne premat opposito mollia terga genu.
Parva leves capiunt animos: fuit utile multis
     pulvinum facili composuisse manu.               160
profuit et tenui ventos movisse tabella,
     et cava sub tenerum scamna dedisse pedem.

Nec te fugiat certamen: let not the contest escape you
capax commoda: easily containing (+ gen.)
Nil opus est digitis: i.e. for making secret (arcana) signs
nutus, nutus (m.): nod, hint
nota: sign
proximus a: next to
sedeto: -to is the 2nd and 3rd imp. of the futurum
iunge tuum lateri qua potes usque latus = iunge tuum latus lateri usque qua potes: join your side to her side right on as far as you can
et bene, quod cogit, si nolis, linea iungi = et bene (est vos) linea (abl !) iungi, si nolis
linea: line (marked on the benches for separating the seats)
si nolis: even if you don’t want it
lege loci: by law of the place she sits (we all experiencethis when we are sitting in an overcrowded train or bus: we are touched by others and touche others by lege loci)
socii sermonis origo: the beginning of an informal chat
publica verba: common talk (i.e. don’t go at once into private matters!)
facito requiras: make that you ask
studiose: eagerly, studiously
mora: delay
faveo favi fauturus (+ dat.): to favour
pompa frequens: a crowded procession (befor beginning of a race a festive procession was held at which ivory images of gods (caelestibus eburnis) were carried, amongst these also one of Venus)
gremium: lap
etsi: albeit
pulvis pulveris (m.): dust
decido decidi: to fall down
excutio excussi excussum: to remove
officium: service
pallia si (in) terra nimium demissa iacebunt: when the mantle to much hanging down is lying on the ground (the plural is either used for the singular or it denotes a frequent occurrence – with various girls of course. Likewise tergum `back’ in line 158 and scamna in 162. The description is like a scene from some movie.)
immundus: dirty (immunda pallia)
sedulus: careful, sedulous
effer humo: lift from the ground
protinus: immediately
patiente puella: if the girl permits
contigo contigi contactum (+ dat.): to touch, fall upon
crura videnda: her visible legs (litt. `her legs to be seen’)
opposite genu: with his opposing knee
mollis mollis: soft, gentle
parva leves: small things, small gestures
pulvinum compono: to arrange a cushion
tenuis: small, elegant
tabella: fan
cava scamna: a scamnun is a stool and here probably a small  foot-bench, hollow (cavus) for the comfort of the feet.

Translation by A.S. Klyne.

Don’t forget the races, those noble stallions:
the Circus holds room for a vast obliging crowd.
No need here for fingers to give secret messages,
nor a nod of the head to tell you she accepts:
You can sit by your lady: nothing’s forbidden,
press your thigh to hers, as you can do, all the time:
and it’s good the rows force you close, even if you don’t like it,
since the girl is touched through the rules of the place.
Now find your reason for friendly conversation,
and first of all engage in casual talk.
Make earnest enquiry whose those horses are:
and rush to back her favourite, whatever it is.
When the crowded procession of ivory gods goes by,
you clap fervently for Lady Venus:
if by chance a speck of dust falls in the girl’s lap,
as it may, let it be flicked away by your fingers:
and if there’s nothing, flick away the nothing:
let anything be a reason for you to serve her.
If her skirt is trailing too near the ground,
lift it, and raise it carefully from the dusty earth:
Straightaway, the prize for service, if she allows it,
is that your eyes catch a glimpse of her legs.
Don’t forget to look at who’s sitting behind you,
that he doesn’t press her sweet back with his knee.
Small things please light minds: it’s very helpful
to puff up her cushion with a dextrous touch.
And it’s good to raise a breeze with a light fan,
and set a hollow stool beneath her tender feet.