Sunday, October 05, 2008

Fable 6: Accipiter et Luscinia

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 6 in the book: De Accipitre et Luscinia. For more information Fable about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.
Comprehenderat Lusciniam Accipiter, quae misere clamabat ut se captivam demitteret. Cui Accipiter: “Frustra clamosas cies querimonias, nam licet omnes silvarum commoveris aviculas, non ab unguibus meis liberabunt.”
Comprehenderat Lusciniam Accipiter,
= Although Latin often relies on Subject-Object-Verb for word order, this opening phrase shows the freedom of Latin word order, with Verb-Object-Subject. We are also introduced, as often, to the two leading characters of the fable right here in the opening words.

quae misere clamabat
= The gender difference between the the hawk and the nightingale makes it clear just who this relative pronoun refers to. In some editorial conventions, this relative pronoun might be capitalized and used as the beginning of a sentence. There is some grammatical support for doing just that, as you will see in the next comment.

ut se captivam demitteret.
= The purpose clause here takes a subjunctive verb as you would expect, and the subject of the verb - the hawk - is not expressed. It's obvious from context: if there is going to be any "letting go" that takes place, it will be the hawk who does it. What is interesting here here is the object phrase, se captivam, which you could translate using apposition in English if you want: she shouted for the hawk to let her, his captive, go. The rule for the use of reflexive pronouns (admittedly not always strictly observed in later Latin) is that the reflexive pronoun refers back to the subject of the main verb: that is, not to the subject of demitteret but instead to the subject of the main verb. Clearly, main verb here must be the verb clamabat - which would be an argument for capitalizing the relative pronoun and considering this to be a main verb in a "sentence" of its own, rather than a relative clause in a sentence whose main verb is comprehenderat, with the subject accipiter.

Cui Accipiter:
= As often, the nominative subject paired with a noun in the dative obviate the need for an explicit verb of speaking: "to which the hawk," in other words, "The hawk responded to the nightingale."

“Frustra clamosas cies querimonias,
= Notice the verb nice noun phrase, clamosas querimonias, which is wrappeda round the verb of which it is the object. The effect of this word order is to create an elegant predicate package, while putting a strong emphasis on both words of the noun phrase, with the strongest emphasis of all on the noisiness of those complaints, clamosas (very emphatic first position) cies querimonias (emphatic final position).

nam licet
= The word licet here is being used as a conjunction rather than as a true verb. It introduces a concessive hypothetical situation, much like quamvis (which also contains the remnants of a verb: vis) or etsi. You should expect a subjunctive verb, expressing the hypothetical situation.

omnes silvarum commoveris aviculas,
= Another noun phrase wrapped around its verb, which is indeed the subjunctive verb we were hoping for after licet. Notice also the disparaging use of the diminutive aviculas, which could be translated into English as "birdies," although the use of a diminutive forms in English always seems a bit awkward compared to the extremely widespread and productive use of diminutives in Latin.

non ab unguibus meis liberabunt.”
= The subject of this verb, not expressed, is supplied by the object of the previous verb: omnes aviculae.

Here is the illustration of the fable by Francis Barlow:

The Aesopus Ning is now open for business - so, for more fables and to share your questions and comments with others, come visit the Ning!

No comments: