Saturday, 7 July 2018

Phaedrus 3.8: children quarelling.

When we think of fables, we naturally assume that animals are involved, but not every fable has animals as actors.  In the following fable a little brother and sister have a dispute – how familiar! It is to the father to settle the dispute and give them both advice. Though this fable has its own charm, it also reveals something about pedagogy in first century Rome. Nothing much has changed in the way disputes are settled -or rather ought to be settled - by parents.

Phaedrus 3.8: Soror ad Fratrem  (iambic meter)

Praecepto monitus saepe te considera.
Habebat quidam filiam turpissimam,
idemque insignem pulchra facie filium.
Hi speculum, in cathedra matris ut positum fuit,
pueriliter ludentes forte inspexerunt.
Hic se formosum iactat; illa irascitur
nec gloriantis sustinet fratris iocos,
accipiens (quid enim?) cuncta in contumeliam.
Ergo ad patrem decurrit laesura inuicem,
magnaque inuidia criminatur filium,
uir natus quod rem feminarum tetigerit.
Amplexus ille utrumque et carpens oscula
dulcemque in ambos caritatem partiens,
"Cotidie" inquit "speculo uos uti uolo,
tu formam ne corrumpas nequitiae malis,
tu faciem ut istam moribus uincas bonis."

praeceptum: rule, lesson
saepe: often
turpis: ugly
idemque: and also
insignis (+ abl,): distinguished, noted
facies –es (f.): often not `face’, but outward appearance
hi: the brother and sister
speculum: mirror
cathedra: seat with a cushion, especially used by women
ludi lusi lusum: to play
forte: by chance, accidently
inspexerunt: with the e of –erunt short, as is sometimes done by poets
formosum (esse)
iacto (-are): to boast
irascor iratus: to be angry
glorior gloriatus: to boast
sustineo sustinui sustentum: to bear, sustain
quid enim? How else? (another reading is quippe (of course) for quid enim?.)
in contumeliam: as an insult
laedo (laesi laesum) invicem: to revenge (laesura `about to’ etc.)
magna invidia (abl!) with great hate, grudge
criminor criminatus: to accuse
uir natus quod = quod vir natus (vir natus means `born as male’ i.e. her brother)
tango tetigi tactum: to touch
amplector amplexus: to embrace
carpo (carpsi carptum) oscula: to kiss
partior paritus: to share, divide
utor usus (+ abl.): to use
nequitiae malis: by the evil of wickedness
vincas: that you overcome

Translation by HENRY THOMAS RILEY, B.A. (1893)

Warn’d by our council, oft beware,
And look into yourself with care.
There was a certain father had
A homely girl and comely lad.
These being at their childish play
Within their mother’s room one day,
A looking-glass was in the chair,
And they beheld their faces there.
The boy grows prouder as he looks;
The girl is in a rage, nor brooks
Her boasting brother’s jests and sneers,
Affronted at each word she hears:
Then to her father down she flies,
And urges all she can devise
Against the boy, who could presume
To meddle in a lady’s room.
At which, embracing each in turn,
With most affectionate concern,
“My dears,” he says, “ye may not pass
A day without this useful glass;
You, lest you spoil a pretty face,
By doing things to your disgrace;
You, by good conduct to correct
Your form, and beautify defect.”

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