Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Fable 7: Pavo et Grus

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 7 in the book: De Pavone et Grue. For more information Fable about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.
Pavo et Grus foedus inter se ineunt unaque cenant. Inter cenandum, Pavo nobilitatem suam iactat, formosam ostentat caudam, Gruemque hospitem contemnit. Grus fatetur Pavonem formosiorem esse pennis; se tamen, cum vix tectis supervolitat Pavo, animoso volatu penetrare nubes.
Pavo et Grus
= As often, the main protagonists of the fable are introduced in the opening words of the fable.

foedus inter se ineunt
= The verb inire, "to go into" can take a direct accusative object, as here: foedus ineunt, or it can sometimes be amplified with a preposition in which reinforces the verbal prefix in: (in) urbem inire, "to enter the city." Notice also that the pronoun se refers back to the subject of the verb, which is plural. So, if you were to parse the pronoun, it would be masculine accusative plural.

unaque cenant.
= The word una is used adverbially, meaning "in one and the same place, at the same time, in company, together." The final long "a' shows that this word is probably the remnant of what was an ablative phrase, una via, which involved a feminine noun.

Inter cenandum,
= The gerund is a verbal noun, and when used with the preposition inter, it is equivalent to the English expression "while ___ing." It's important not to be distracted by the similarity of the gerund to the future passive participle; there is nothing passive about the verbal action in the gerund: inter cenandum means that pavo et grus una cenant, very actively dining! Note that you can also find the preposition inter used with another verbal noun, the infinitive: Multum interest inter legere et intelligere, "There is a big difference between reading and understanding."

Pavo nobilitatem suam iactat,
= The reflexive possessive pronoun refers back to the subject of the verb, which is easy to identify here: pavo. The verb is a frequentative form, from the basic form iacere, "to toss." The verb iactare can be used literally to mean throwing, casting, hurling, etc., but it can also be used metaphorically to refer to throwing words about, brandishing claims, especially boastful claims, as the peacock does here.

formosam ostentat caudam,
= Notice the noun phrase wrapped around the verb of which it is the object. The verb ostentare is another frequentative verb form, from ostendere. We get the boastful sense of the Latin word in the English derivative, "ostentatious."

Gruemque hospitem contemnit.
= The noun hospitem, used here in apposition to gruem, suggests not only that peacock is vain, but also rude: even if what the peacock was saying might be true, it is not the kind of argument you want to start over dinner with a friend. It shows a lack of what we would call in English "hospitality" if you treat your hospes in this way.

Grus fatetur
= The verb is from an archaic Latin verb of speaking, and it conveys a sense of admitting or acknowledging something. In Latin grammatical terminology, the indicative mood is sometimes called fatendi modus, "the confessional mood," because the indicative mood is used to acknowledge of statements of fact.

Pavonem formosiorem esse pennis;
= The accusative plus infinitive construction is introduced by the verb fatetur, "confesses the peacock to be more beautiful." The ablative noun expresses the means by which the peacock manifests his beauty: by means of his feathers, because of his feathers.

se tamen,
= The postpositive tamen marks the beginning of a new clause. Its parallel structure, accusative plus infinitive, following the previous clause allows us to be patient and wait quite a long time for the infinitive that goes with this accusative subject of the infinitive. The reflexive pronoun refers back to the subject of the main verb, grus. So, eventually we are going to learn something about what the crane is able to do that counters the admission that the peacock is the more beautiful of the two.

cum vix tectis supervolitat Pavo,
= The cum clause here with an indicative verb expresses a statement of fact. Just as the crane makes a statement of fact about the peacock being more beautiful, the crane also makes a statement of fact about the peacock's limited flying ability using an indicative verb. The verb supervolitat is another frequentative verb from from volare.

animoso volatu penetrare nubes.
= At last we get the infinitive to go with our accusative subject se; in addition to its accusative subject, the infinitive also takes an accusative object, nubes. The noun phrase contains a verbal noun, volatus, which is called a supine.

Here is the illustration of the fable by Francis Barlow:

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Ed said...

Wouldn't "volatu" come from volatus, us m--flight? The supines of "volo" have to be "volatum" and "volatu." But the ablative supine is used only after neuter singular adjectives, and we don't have one of those in this sentence.

Laura Gibbs said...

Hi again, Ed! The fourth declension nouns formed on the supine stem I teach as supines - I gave up long ago telling students that "volatu" is sometimes a verbal noun called a supine (and if so, where will they find it in the dictionary?), and sometimes a fourth declension noun formed from the supine stem, which they will indeed find in the dictionary. So yes, technically speaking, volatus is a fourth declension noun formed on the spine stem; where I say supine and you wish to make the traditional distinction, please feel free to substitute the phrase "fourth-declension noun formed on the supine stem" if you prefer.