Monday, December 08, 2008

Fable 44: Mus et Rana

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 44 in the book: De Mure et Rana. For more information Fable about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.
Post longe exercita odia, Mus et Rana in bellum ruebant. Causa certaminis erat de paludis imperio. Anceps pugna fuit. Mus insidias sub herbis struebat et improviso Marte Ranam adoritur. Rana, viribus melior et pectore, insultuque valens, hostem aggreditur. Hasta utrique erat iuncea et paribus formosa nodis. Sed, certamine procul viso, Milvus adproperat, dumque prae pugnae studio neuter sibi cavebat, bellatores ambos egregie pugnantes Milvus secum attollit laniatque.
Post longe exercita odia,
= Unlike the traditional Aesop's fable about the frog and the mouse, this one assumes that the two characters are long-standing enemies.

Mus et Rana in bellum ruebant.
= Here we meet the two main characters: the mouse and the frog.

Causa certaminis erat de paludis imperio.
= Why exactly mice would want to control the swamp is not clear, but Aesop's fables are not famous for their zoological accuracy.

Anceps pugna fuit.
= The word anceps literally means "two-headed" (ambi-caput), and metaphorically it refers to a situation that is ambiguous or doubtful in some way.

= We are now going to examine each of the two combatants, starting with the mouse.

insidias sub herbis struebat
= The mouse is clearly a tricky combatant, using an ambush, trying to exploit the element of surprise.

et improviso Marte Ranam adoritur.
= The deponent verb adoritur is transitive and takes a direct object in the accusative. Mars was the Roman god of war and the name of the god also stands for warfare itself and for battle, so this phrase means “a surprise Mars, a surprise attack.”

= Now we will learn about the other combatant, the frog.

viribus melior et pectore,
= The phrase viribus et pectore wraps around the adjective; the word pectus refers physically to the chest, but metaphorically to “heart, spirit, the fighting spirit,” etc., so while the mouse may have the advantage of surprise, the frog has more strength and fighting spirit.

insultuque valens,
= The ablative insultu explains in what way the frog was strong.

hostem aggreditur.
= The deponent verb aggreditur is transitive and takes a direct object in the accusative.

Hasta utrique erat iuncea
= The dative indicates possession, something that each combatant had at their disposal: each one had a spear.

et paribus formosa nodis.
= The phrase paribus nodis wraps around the adjective, the number of knots in the reed referring to the overall length: “with an equal number of knots,” meaning the reeds were equal in length.

Sed, certamine procul viso,
= Ablative absolute construction.

Milvus adproperat,
= Here comes the unexpected third character in the story: the predatory kte.

dumque prae pugnae studio
= The pugna referred to here is the fight between the mouse and the frog, which is occupying their full attention.

neuter sibi cavebat,
= The pronoun neuter means that neither of the combatants - not the mouse, not the frog - was paying attention to this new danger!

bellatores ambos egregie pugnantes
= The pronoun ambos refers to both combatants, the mouse and the frog; ambos is unambiguously accusative, so we can be confident that the ambiguous form pugnantes is also accusative.

Milvus secum attollit laniatque.
= The word secum is a compound, with inverted order: se + cum = cum se. The reflexive pronoun refers back to the subject of the verb, the kite.

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: