Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fable 3: Partus Montium

Here's the next fable with a kind of running commentary that is not entirely possible within the confines of the forthcoming Aesop book from Bolchazy-Carducci. This will be Fable 3 in the book: De Partu Montium. For more information Fable about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.
Rumor erat parturire Montes. Homines undique accurrunt et circumstant, monstri quidpiam non sine pavore expectantes. Montes tandem parturiunt; exit ridiculus Mus.
Rumor erat
= This fable nicely introduces the main theme in the first word: rumor, the same word in Latin and in English. Unlike other Aesop's fables which feature a confrontation between two opposing characters, this is one of the more atypical fables in which the fool - in this case, the fools, the human beings who believe the rumors - figure out their mistake on their own, without an antagonist to unmask it for them. The lioness rebuked the fox in the first fable, and the ox rebuked the dog in the second fable, but in this fable you will see that the humans end up having to rebuke themselves for their own foolishness.

parturire Montes.
= The accusative plus infinitive construction here is introduced by the previous phrase, rumor erat, "Rumor had it (that)..."

Homines undique accurrunt et circumstant,
= The wonderful word undique conveys the sense of "from all sides," a compound of unde, "from where, whence" with the same suffix as in the familiar form quisque, "each, every." Compare the English word "ubiquitous," meaning everywhere. If we were to borrow the Latin undique in the same manner, we would have something that is "undiquitous," coming from all sides!

monstri quidpiam
= The word monstri is a partitive genitive: quidpiam (something) monstri (of an unnatural thing) = “something unnatural.” The word quidpiam is a compound, quid + piam, of which only the first part declines, giving forms such as cuiuspiam (genitive), cuipiam (dative), etc.

non sine pavore expectantes.
= The double negative, non sine, "not without" (meaning with!), is an example of the rhetorical figure of speech called "litotes."

Montes tandem parturiunt;
= The Latin word tandem refers to something at the end of a series, something long awaited, "finally." In English, the word has been adopted directly from Latin, "tandem," and it originally referred to draft horses that were harnessed one behind the other in a series (hence Latin tandem), as opposed to being side by side. The term was also used to refer to a two-seated bicycle, with the riders "in tandem," one after the other. Over time, this serial dimension of English "tandem" was lost, and the word came to refer to any kind of team effort, without the specific sense of being aligned in a row.

exit ridiculus Mus.
= Notice the lovely balance in the word order: although Latin generally has verb-final sentences, the emphasize last position here is reserved by the big surprise: the mouse, which was all that emerged in the end.

Here is the illustration of the fable by Francis Barlow:

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