Friday, November 21, 2008

Fable 28: Canis Mordax

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 28 in the book: De Cane Mordaci. For more information Fable about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.
Cani, saepius homines mordenti, illigavit Dominus nolam, scilicet ut sibi quisque caveret. Canis, ratus virtuti suae tributum hoc decus esse, populares omnes despicit. Accedit tandem ad hunc Canem aliquis, iam aetate et auctoritate gravis, monens eum ne erret. “Nam ista nola (inquit) data est tibi in dedecus, non in decus.”
Cani, saepius homines mordenti,
= As usual, we meet one of the main characters in the opening words of the fable: cani moredenti, the dog who bites. The comparative adverb saepius indicates “very often, rather often,” without an explicit comparison. We don't yet know the reason why the dog has been introduced to us in the dative case.

illigavit Dominus nolam,
= Here we get the reason why the dog is in the dative case: the master has tied a bell to the dog. Notice that the illustration shows a clog instead of a bell (a clog is an even more effective way to hobble a biting dog, of course!).

scilicet ut sibi quisque caveret.
= This ut clauses explains the master's purpose in tying the bell onto the dog's neck. The reflexive pronoun refers here to the subject of the verb in this clause, caveret, i.e., so that everybody could watch out on their own behalf.

Canis, ratus
= The participle ratus here (ratus est), means that the dog thought or supposed something, introducing an indirect statement.

virtuti suae tributum hoc decus esse,
= Accusative plus infinitive construction in indirect statement, with hoc decus as the accusative subject and tributum as the predicate noun.

populares omnes despicit.
= The use of populares here to refer to the community of dogs is quite humorous. The idea is that these are the "people" (i.e. dogs!) on his same level, exactly the kind of folks he shouldn't be putting on airs with.

Accedit tandem ad hunc Canem
= The hunc refers to the dog we have been talking about, the one who bites.

= The pronoun refers to some other dog: aliquis (canis).

iam aetate et auctoritate gravis,
= By contrast, this confirms our suspicion that the dog who bites is a young and foolish fellow.

monens eum
= The participle agrees with the subject of the main verb, accedit - that is, the old and wise dog, who gives a warning to eum, the dog who bites.

ne erret.
= You can get a good sense here of the independent use of the subjunctive as a command: ne erret, "he shouldn't make this mistake." (In second person, it would be like an imperative: ne erres, "don't make this mistake!") What is the mistake? The old dog has nothing to say about biting: instead, he is going to warn the foolish dog not to mistake the meaning of the bell around his neck!

“Nam ista nola (inquit)
= Notice the use of the verb inquit here to indicate direct speech. Unlike other verbs of speaking, it is not used to introduce indirect statement; instead, this verb is inserted into quoted speech to indicate precisely that these are the direct words of one of the characters in the story.

data est tibi in dedecus, non in decus.”
= Here is the mistake that the dog has been making: he has confused a dedecus with a decus - a dishonor with an honor, you might say in English.

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: