Formica, ut sitim sedaret, fonticulum accessit, sed in fonticulum elapsa et paene lymphis absorpta est. Columba, arborem insidens fonticulo contiguam, ramusculum ore direptum in fonticulum deiecit, cuius adminiculo servata Formica evasit. Sed interea affuit Auceps, Columbae insidias tensurus. Formica tibiale gravissime mordebat. Cui cum fricandi gratiam admonebat, percepit id Columba et impune avolavit.Formica,
= We meet one of the main characters here in the first word: the ant.
ut sitim sedaret,
= This is an ant with a purpose, and her purpose is expressed with an ut clause.
= Notice the use of the diminutive, fonticulus, from the noun fons.
sed in fonticulum elapsa
= Although the form is passive, the verb is deponent, so the meaning is active: the poor little ant slipped!
et paene lymphis absorpta est.
= The letters "y" and "ph" are distinctively Greek, and show that this is an elegant word which Latin borrowed from that language.
= Here is the other main character of the story: the dove.
arborem insidens fonticulo contiguam,
= As it turns out, the bird is close by, close enough to see the tiny drama that is being played out in the water.
ramusculum ore direptum
= You might translate the passive participle with an active verb: the dove seized the little branch (direptum) - and can you guess what she will do with it?
in fonticulum deiecit,
= We are used to the metaphorical sense of "dejection" in English, but here the Latin verb has its literally mean: the dove threw down the little branch.
cuius adminiculo servata Formica evasit.
= The referent of the relative pronoun is the ramusculum, and thanks to its help the ant made her escape.
Sed interea affuit Auceps,
= Now we meet a third character: the bird catcher.
Columbae insidias tensurus.
= Like the ant, the birdcatcher also has a purpose, expressed here with a future active participle.
Formica tibiale gravissime mordebat.
= The adverb gravissime is the superlative form of the adverb, graviter.
Cui cum fricandi gratiam admonebat,
= The referent of the relative pronoun cui is auceps, whose shin was bitten: (aucupi) admonebat, “when (the bite on the shin) suggested to the birdcatcher the pleasantness of scratching. . .”
percepit id Columba
= The pronoun id refers to the scratching motion prompted by the bite.
et impune avolavit.
= The adverb impune means "without punishment" or "without fear of punishment" (in-poena); in other words: safely!
Here is the illustration of the fable by Francis Barlow:
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