Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fable 55: Canis et Umbra

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 55 in the book: De Cane et Umbra. For more information Fable about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.
Canis quidam, tranans fluvium, vorabunda fauce vehebat carnem, splendente sole, et (ut plerumque fit) umbra carnis lucebat in aquis. Quam avide captans, quod in rictu oris erat perdiderat. Quo infortunio perculsus, huc illuc vagos circumtulit ocellos et, tandem animum recipiens, sic elatravit: “Miserae deerat cupiditati modus! Satis superque esset ni desipuissem. Iam tota spes et res in fundo perierunt.”
Canis quidam, tranans fluvium,
= As usual, we meet the main character of the fable here in the opening words: the dog.

vorabunda fauce vehebat carnem,
= Although the form vorabunda is ambiguous, the unambiguous fauce lets you safely conclude that vorabunda is also feminine ablative singular.

splendente sole,
= Ablative absolute construction.

et (ut plerumque fit)
= Note the use of the word ut here with an indicative verb; although the construction of ut with subjunctive verbs is very common, the word ut, meaning "as," is also common.

umbra carnis lucebat in aquis.
= You can recognize the root lu- in a wide range of Latin words, all having to do with brightness and shining: lux, lumen and even luna.

Quam avide captans,
= The referent of the relative pronoun quam is umbra in the previous sentence: quam (umbram) captans.

quod in rictu oris erat
= For the referent of this relative pronoun, see the following note.

= The object of perdiderat is the implied referent of the relative pronoun: (hoc), quod in rictu oris erat, perdiderat.

Quo infortunio perculsus,
= The relative phrase quo infortunio refers back to the events of the previous sentence, when the dog unluckily dropped the meat in the water.

huc illuc vagos circumtulit ocellos
= The phrase vagos ocellos wraps around the verb.

et, tandem animum recipiens,
= The phrase animum recipere means “to recover your wits, return to your senses.”

sic elatravit:
= For the dog, the verb elatravit serves as a verb of "speaking," and introduces direct quoted speech.

“Miserae deerat cupiditati modus!
= The dative phrase miserae cupiditati wraps around the verb. The noun modus is the subject of the verb: “a limit was lacking to my greed” (i.e., “there was no limit to my greed”).

Satis superque esset
= The imperfect subjunctive expresses a contrary-to-fact hypothetical situation: it would have been enough and more ... but it is not enough! In fact, the dog is left with nothing at all!

ni desipuissem.
= The pluperfect subjunctive expresses a contrary-to-fact situation in the past: if the dog had not acted like a fool... but he did, indeed, act like a fool!

Iam tota spes et res
= There is a nice play on words in Latin here, with spes and res. I can't think of a good word play in English that could render this one!

in fundo perierunt.”
= The phrase in fundo refers to the bottom of the stream: in fundo (fluvii).

Here is the illustration of the fable by Francis Barlow:

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