Sunday, November 02, 2008

Fable 16: Cicada et Formica

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 16 in the book: De Cicada et Formica. For more information Fable about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.
Dum per aestatem Cicada cantat, Formica suam exercet messem, trahendo in antra grana et in hiemem reponendo. Saeviente autem bruma, famelica Cicada venit ad Formicam et mendicat victum; renuebat autem Formica, dictitans sese laborasse, dum illa cantabat.
Dum per aestatem Cicada cantat,
= The first sentence introduces one of the two main characters in the story: the cricket.

Formica suam exercet messem,
= Here is the other main character in the story: the ant. Note that the noun phrase wraps around the verb.

trahendo in antra grana
= Note the use of the gerund in the ablative case; as a verbal noun, the gerund can take a direct object, as it does here. The ablative here expresses the activity going on in order to carry out the harvest: the grains have to be brought into the ant's hole.

et in hiemem reponendo.
= Another gerund in the ablative case, explaining more of what happens during the harvest. Note the metaphorical use of in here; instead of expressing space, it expresses time. (Most expressions of location in space can also be used as metaphorical expressions of time.)

Saeviente autem bruma,
= Ablative absolute construction, with the postpositive particle in second position, as you would expect.

famelica Cicada
= The adjective explains the cricket's situation when there is no longer food for the taking out there in the field!

venit ad Formicam
= Although it is unclear whether the verb here should be taken as present or perfect, it does not matter for the purposes of storytelling (Latin freely intermingles present and past tense verbs in telling a story); as you read on, you will see that the verb probably should be taken as present tense.

et mendicat victum;
= The present tense verb here confirms that venit should probably also be considered present tense. Careful with victum - this is the accusative of the fourth-declension noun, victus, a verbal noun or supine from the verb vivere. (Because this verb is not transitive, its supine is a bit harder to recognize, since you are not used to seeing a perfect participle for this verb.) The root of this word is the same as in the word vivere, "to live," because you need food to live (it is NOT from the word vincere, "to defeat," although the perfect participle of that verb is, indeed, victus).

renuebat autem Formica,
= Note the postpositive participle in second position, just as you would expect.

= This is an intensifed iterative form of the verb dicere -> dictitare.

sese laborasse,
= Accusative plus infinitive construction in indirect statement; sese is an alternate form of se (referring back to the main subject of the sentence, the ant), and laborasse is an alternate form of laboravisse.

dum illa cantabat.
= The pronoun here refers to the cricket, who was indeed singing, as we learned in the very opening words of the fable.

Here is the illustration of the fable by Francis Barlow:

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