Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fable 14: Rana et Bos

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 14 in the book: De Rana et Bove. For more information Fable about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.
Rana, cupida aequandi Bovem, se distendebat. Filius hortabatur Matrem coepto desistere; nihil enim esse Ranam ad Bovem. Illa autem, posthabito consilio, secundum intumuit. Clamitat Natus: “Crepes licet, Mater, Bovem nunquam vinces.” Tertium autem cum intumuisset, crepuit.
Rana, cupida aequandi Bovem,
= As often, the first words of the fable introduce us to the main characters: the frog and the ox. The adjective cupida (“desirous of”) takes a genitive complement, aequandi, a gerund which has bovem as its direct object.

se distendebat.
= Here is the main verb of the sentence. As often, Latin distinguishes between the transitive and intransitive forms of the verb using the reflexive pronoun, where English is more lackadaisical about make such distinctions (e.g., transitive expand, "I have to expand my belt a few notches" v. intransitive expand, "my waist is expanding!").

Filius hortabatur Matrem
= Note that even though frogs are grammatically feminine in Latin, they can have sons! The fact that animal gender names are usually either masculine or feminine, when the animals themselves come in both sexes, can cause some awkwardness in storytelling. Even if the frog is a feminine noun, there are frog mothers and fathers in frog families, and frog sons, as you can see here.

coepto desistere;
= The infinitive desistere (“cease from, give up on”) takes an ablative complement.

nihil enim esse Ranam ad Bovem.
= This is an accusative plus infinitive construction in indirect statement, with an implied verb of speaking, as the son addresses his mother. The prepositional phrase expresses the idea of comparison: “(in comparison) to an ox.”

Illa autem,
= The postpositive particle marks the beginning of a new sentence, and note the change in subject: it is no longer the son, but the mother frog who is now the subject.

posthabito consilio,
= An ablative absolute construction: the mother has disregarded her son's good advice!

secundum intumuit.
= Be careful with secundum: this is an adverb, meaning "a second time" (compare the similar use of tertium below).

Clamitat Natus:
= We are back to the warnings shouted by the son, this time with an intensive iterative form of the verb clamare -> clamitare.

“Crepes licet, Mater,
= The hypothetical force of the subjunctive is explained by licet, meaning “even if, although."

Bovem nunquam vinces.”
= As often, the subjective verb is pair here with a future verb. The subjunctive and the future indicative actually have a great deal in common - even though there are indicative forms used for the future tense, it definitely cannot ever be a statement of "fact" in quite the same way that a statement about the present or the past qualifies as fact.

Tertium autem cum intumuisset,
= The subjunctive, introduced by cum, gives causal background information; this is why the frog finally exploded. The adverb tertium is in the emphatic first position in the clause, with the postpositive particle autem in second position, followed by cum - which has been displaced from first position in its clause by these other words with greater claims to word order priority.

= So we have the final indicative verb which gives the grand finale of the story: the frog exploded!

Here is the illustration of the fable by Francis Barlow:

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