Sunday, May 18, 2008

Perry 18: The Fisherman and the Little Fish (Avianus)

As I'm gearing up for the publication of Aesop’s Fables in Latin: Ancient Wit and Wisdom from the Animal Kingdom (coming soon from Bolchazy-Carducci!), I'm reviewing the different Perry numbers that will be included in that book. For each of the fables, I'm posting here a Latin version of the fable along with an illustration that can be compared/contrasted with the version in Barlow's book.

Today's fable is Perry #18, the story of the fisherman and the little fish who begs for mercy; the fisherman, however, prefers a little fish now to the promise of a big fish later. At the Aesopus wiki, you can see a complete list of the versions of this fable that I have collected. This is a fable that is attested in the Latin tradition starting with Avianus, and it is one of the fables of Avianus that Steinhowel included in his collection.

Here is the version in Avianus:

Piscator solitus praedam suspendere saeta
exigui piscis vile trahebat onus.
sed postquam superas captum perduxit ad auras
atquc avido fixum vulnus ab ore tulit,
"parce, precor," supplex lacrimis ita dixit obortis;
"nam quanta ex nostro corpore dona feres?"
nunc me saxosis genitrix fecunda sub antris
fudit et in propriis ludere iussit aquis.
tolle minas, tenerumque tuis sine crescere mensis.
haec tibi me rursum litoris ora dabit.
protinus immensi depastus caerula ponti
pinguior ad calamum sponte recurro tuum.
ille nefas captum referens absolvere piscem,
difficiles queritur cassibus esse vices.
"nam miserum est" inquit "praesentem amittere praedam
stultius ct rursum vota futura sequi."

Here it is written out in segmented style to make it easier to follow, rearranging the Latin word as necessary to make the syntax more clear:

solitus suspendere praedam saeta,
trahebat exigui piscis vile onus.
sed postquam captum perduxit
ad superas auras
atquc tulit fixum vulnus
ab avido ore,
"parce, precor,"
supplex ita dixit
lacrimis obortis;
"nam ex nostro corpore
quanta dona feres?"
nunc fudit me genitrix fecunda
sub antris saxosis
et in propriis aquis
ludere iussit.
tolle minas,
et sine
tenerum crescere
tuis mensis.
haec ora litoris
dabit tibi me rursum.
protinus depastus
caerula ponti immensi
sponte recurro pinguior
ad calamum tuum.
ille referens
nefas absolvere captum piscem,
difficiles esse vices
"nam miserum est
praesentem praedam amittere
et stultius
vota futura rursum sequi."

My favorite detail about this version is the way that the fish was also a bit greedy himself, with his avidum os, hence his undoing!

For an illustration, here is an image from Steinhowel's Aesop which shows the fisherman with the fish in hand:

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