Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fable 33: Senex et Mors

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 33 in the book: De Sene et Morte. For more information about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.
Fasce praegravatus Senex, et misellae suae pertaesus sortis, Mortem invocabat, ut finem aerumnosae vitae tandem defigeret. Invocata advenit Mors, percontata Senex quid secum velit; ad cuius adventum territus, nil respondit sed “Ut auxilio mihi sis, et fascem collapsum rursus umeris imponas!”
Fasce praegravatus Senex,
= As usual, we meet one of the main characters in the opening lines of the story, the old man.

et misellae suae pertaesus sortis,
= The adjective pertaesus takes a genitive complement (“be thoroughly tired of”), with the phrase misellae suae sortis wrapping around the adjective. The adjective misellus is a diminutive form of miser.

Mortem invocabat,
= Although death, Mors, is a feminine noun in Latin, the skeletal figure in Barlow's illustration is part of a visual tradition representing death as the "Grim Reaper," a masculine, rather than a feminine, figure.

ut finem aerumnosae vitae tandem defigeret.
= This is the old man's purpose in calling upon Death, expressed in an ut clause, with Death as the implied subject of the verb defigeret.

Invocata advenit Mors,
= As often, Latin expresses with a participle, a single word, what English would express with an entire clause: (Upon being) summoned (by the man), Death arrived

= Don't be fooled by the form of this deponent verb: although it looks passive (much like invocata in the previous clause), the meaning is active: Death asked man a question, percontata (est).

Senex quid secum velit;
= The word quid introduces an indirect question with the subjunctive verb, velit, whose subject is senex. The reflexive pronoun se (secum = cum se) refers back to Mors, the subject of the main verb: “Death asked what the old man wanted with him” (i.e., with Death).

ad cuius adventum territus,
= The referent of the relative pronoun is Death: ad cuius (Mortis) adventum.

nil respondit sed
= The subject of the verb, agreeing with the participle territus, is the old man.

“Ut auxilio mihi sis,
= The predicate dative expresses the purpose which Death should serve; the man wants Death to be “helpful” to him.

et fascem collapsum rursus umeris imponas!”
= The subjunctive imponas, like the verb sis, express the man's purpose in summoning Death... at least, so he claims now!

Here is the illustration of the fable by Francis Barlow:

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