Monday, November 17, 2008

Fable 24: Vitula 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 24 in the book: De Vitula et Bove. For more information Fable about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.
Mollis et lasciva Vitula, cum Bovem agricolae aculeo agitatum et arantem cerneret, contempsit. Sed, cum immolationis dies affuit, Bos, a iugo liberatus, per pascua vagabatur. Vitula vero, ut immolaretur, retenta est. Quod cum Bos conspicatur, subridens ait, “Heus Vitula, ideo non laborabas: ut immolareris!”
Mollis et lasciva Vitula,
= As usual, we meet one of the main characters in the opening words of the fable: the heifer. The Latin word vitulus, feminine vitula, ultimately gives us the word "veal" - a word that is quite relevant to the dramatic conclusion of this little fable!

cum Bovem
= We meet here the other character in the fable: the ox. Given that bovem is clearly accusative, you can be confident that this is the adverbial cum (but you don't know yet whether it will take a subjunctive verb, or an indicative one), as opposed to the preposition cum.

agricolae aculeo agitatum et arantem
= The participles agitatum and arantem describe the ox, bovem.

= The subjunctive, introduced by cum, gives causal background information; this is why the heifer felt contempt for the ox.

= The core sentence here clearly expresses the relationship between the two animal characters: vitula ... bovem ... contempsit.

Sed, cum immolationis dies affuit,
= Note the use of cum plus an indicative verb, explaining simply when something took place. It is a religious holiday, unlike the working day which was described in the previous sentence.

Bos, a iugo liberatus,
= We saw the ox working under the yoke in the previous sentence, but now that the holiday has arrived, the ox has been let loose from the yoke.

per pascua vagabatur.
= The ox is spending his holiday in the meadows, as opposed to laboring in the farmer's cultivated fields.

Vitula vero,
= Note the postpositive particle vero in second position.

ut immolaretur,
= Although the word "immolate" conjures up the idea of fire in English, from the sacrificial fire on the altar, the Latin word is derived from mola meaning "meal, grain," and it referred originally to mola salsa, grits mixed with salt, which was sprinkled on the animal at the time of sacrifice.

retenta est.
= Notice the contrast between the ox's situation, liberatus, and the situation of the heifer: retenta.

Quod cum Bos conspicatur,
= The relative pronoun connects back to the previous sentence, referring to the general situation described there, i.e. the heifer being led away to be sacrificed; note the use again here of cum plus an indicative verb.

subridens ait,
= As often, Latin uses a participle and a finite verb where English would be more likely to use two finite verbs: the ox "smiled and said..."

“Heus Vitula,
= The interjection heus, regularly used with the vocative, is used to get someone's attention, much like the English "hey!"

ideo non laborabas:
= The adverb ideo is often used with ut in order to explain the reason why some event is taking place.

ut immolareris!”
= Of course, the heifer did not realize at the time this was the reason for her former life of leisure!

Here is the illustration of the fable by Francis Barlow:

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