Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Perry 53: Old Man and his Sons

As one of the tasks preparing for my new book, 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 #53, the story of the old man who uses a bundle of sticks to teach the power of unity to his quarreling son. At the Aesopus wiki, you can see a complete list of the versions of this fable that I have collected. This is not a fable represented in the classical or medieval Latin traditions, but it joins the Latin tradition in Renaissance and later writers. As one of the most "uplifting" of Aesop's fables, it naturally finds itself at home in the books of Aesop intended to teach positive moral lessons to children.

Here is a simple prose version in Jacobs & Doering's Latin reader:

Agricola senex, cum mortem sibi appropinquare sentiret, filios convocavit, quos, ut fieri solet, interdum discordare noverat, et fascem virgularum afferri jubet. Quibus allatis, filios hortabatur, ut hunc fascem frangerent. Quod cum facere non possent, distribuit singulis singulas virgas, iisque celeriter fractis, docuit illos, quam firma res esset concordia, quamque imbecillis discordia.

Here is the version in Osius:

Languentem senio cum mors vicina maneret
Agricolam, soboles cui numerosa fuit:
Et vexare frequens hanc mutua rixa soleret,
Ipse modo tali conciliare parat:
Vimine connexas in fascem frangere virgas
Praecipit, at vis has frangere nulla potest.
Ille datam cuivis unam tum frangere virgam
Iussit, at haec nullo fracta labore fuit.
Firma docens hoc quam res sit concordia facto,
Distractosque iuvent robora parva viros.
Praebet ut humanis vires concordia rebus,
Sic horum discors robore vita caret.

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:

Cum mors vicina maneret
agricolam languentem senio,
cui soboles numerosa fuit,
et mutua rixa
frequens soleret
vexare hanc [sobolem],
ipse conciliare parat
modo tali:
connexas in fascem vimine,
at vis nulla
potest has frangere.
virgam unam datam cuivis
ille iussit frangere,
at haec fracta fuit
nullo labore,
hoc facto
firma res sit concordia,
et [quam] parva robora
iuvent viros distractos.
Ut concordia
praebet vires humanis rebus,
sic discors vita horum
robore caret.

For an illustration, here is an image from Bewick's edition of Aesop which shows the boys as children, not yet young men:

In contrast, here is an image from Jacobs's edition of Aesop which shows the sons as young men:

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