Friday, August 01, 2008

Perry 291: The Driver and Hercules

Today's fable is Perry 291, the story of the man whose wagon was stuck in the mud. We may not drive wagons anymore, but it's still a story that is easy to relate to - and I definitely admire the moral, which, as you will see, is basically "God helps those who help themselves" (a saying which many people assume can be found in the Bible, but not so - the English version seems to derive from Ben Franklin). At, you can see a complete list of the versions of this fable type that I have collected.

Here is the version from the Renaissance poet Caspar von Barth. It's a comparatively easy bit of poetry (as poetry goes!), written in iambic meter:

Saxis onustum obhaeserat luto plaustrum,
Ibi bubulcus voce maxima Divos
Inclamitare, nil sed ipse conari,
Digito nec uno tangere arduam molem.
Olli supremus robore adstitit Divum
Manumque iussit applicare tormento.
Ita, fatus, auxilium invocato divinum,
Ignavia ne vota tute corrumpas.

Here it is written out in segmented style to make it easier to follow, with some adjustments to the word order. Be careful here of the so-called "future imperative," invocato - the future imperative often gets short shrift in Latin textbooks, but it is not that uncommon in Latin, especially the kind of Latin which features direct speech, as often in the fables. I also added in a dicitur to help explain the use of the infinitives inclamitare and conari.

saxis onustum
luto obhaeserat;
ibi bubulcus
voce maxima
[dicitur] inclamitare Divos,
ipse nil conari,
nec digito uno
tangere arduam molem.
Supremus robore Divum
olli adstitit
et iussit
manum applicare tormento,
"invocato auxilium divinum
ne tute corrumpas vota

For an image, here is Walter Crane's illustration for the story (along with a version in limerick form):

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