Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fable 5: Cornix et Urna

Here's the next fable with a kind of running commentary that is not entirely possible within the confines of the forthcoming book from Bolchazy-Carducci. This will be Fable 5 in the book: De Cornice et Urna. For more information Fable about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.
Sitibunda Cornix reperit urnam aqua plenam, sed erat urna profundior quam ut exhauri a Cornice possit. Conatur igitur vano molimine aquam effundere, sed non valet. Lectos igitur ex arena lapillulos iniectat. Hoc modo aqua levatur et Cornix bibit.
Sitibunda Cornix
= There are lots of these marvelous adjectives in -bundus to be found in these Aesop texts: fremebundus, gemebundus, gloriabundus, indignabundus, laetabundus, supplicabundus, vorabundus. In terms of borrowing into English, there are not so many - moribund is the only one that comes to mind!

reperit urnam aqua plenam,
= Note the ablative as a complement to the adjective, which sometimes take a genitive complement, and sometimes an ablative, as here.

sed erat urna profundior
= The comparative adjective sets up a comparison, so you are wanting an ablative or a quam to go with that.

quam ut exhauri a Cornice possit.
= And there you have it: the quam you were hoping for. Since the term of comparison is a verbal phrase, the quam is required, rather than a simple ablative for expressing the comparison: the jug is deeper than could be drained by the crow - or, using a more typical active rather than passive construction English: deeper than the crow could reach to drink.

Conatur igitur
= There's a very nice postpositive particle, indicating the beginning of a new sentence, and letting us know that what is about to happen is a logical consequence of the prior statement. The verb needs an infinitive complement, so we are hoping for an infinitive.

vano molimine aquam effundere,
= And here comes the infinitive, just what we wanted. Although the word molimen might not be familiar, it is a typical noun formation from a verbal stem, as likewise in acumen, agmen, certamen, flumen, nomen. Of those, nomen is my favorite: the name is a "knowing" of something.

sed non valet.
= As often, Latin does not repeat words unnecessarily - so you can supply the complementary infinitive here from before: effundere non valet.

Lectos igitur ex arena lapillulos
= Another logical consequence, marked by the postpositive particle. We've got an accusative noun phrase, which conveys what would be a clause on its own in English: after the crow gathered little stones from the sand... (main verb). We're still waiting for the main verb, of course; this accusative noun phrase needs to be the object of something. Notice also the lovely diminutive, not just a single diminutive (lapillus), but a double diminutive: lapillulus, what we might call gravel, teeny-tiny pebbles.

= Perfect! This is the verb that we need for the accusative noun phrase.

Hoc modo aqua levatur
= There is no postpositive particle weaving this sentence into the previous sentence: instead we have a bold declarative phrase: "in THIS way (i.e., not effortlessly, and not by sheer force) the water is raised up."

et Cornix bibit.
= This simple statement provides a perfect finale for a story which started with the phrase sitibunda Cornix.

Here is the illustration of the fable by Francis Barlow:

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