Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Perry 55: Maids and Rooser

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 #55, the story of the maids who killed the rooster, thinking (wrongly) that they would be able to sleep late as a result. At the Aesopus wiki, you can see a complete list of the versions of this fable that I have collected. This is one of my favorite fables since even though we do not wake up to the sound of the cock crow anymore, we've probably all contemplated violence directed towards our electric alarm clocks at some point or other!

This is a fable not attested in the classical or medieval Latin tradition, and it becomes part of the Latin tradition only in the later Latin authors.

Here is a simple prose version from the Jacobs & Doering Latin reader:

Mulier vidua, quae texendo vitam sustentabat, solebat ancillas suas de nocte excitare ad opus, cum primum galli cantum audivisset. At illae, diuturno labore fatigatae, statuerunt gallum interficere. Quo facto, deteriore conditione quam prius esse coeperunt. Nam domina, de hora noctis incerta, nunc famulas saepe iam prima nocte excitabat.

Here is a Renaissance version by Hieronymus Osius:

Femina cum viduos quaedam traduceret annos,
Et sibi texendi quaereret arte cibum,
Ad solitum famulas noctu mox illa laborem,
Nempe sonat Galli vox ubi prima, vocat.
Illa fatigatas exhausti mole laboris,
Hanc interficerent, causa iubebat, avem.
Quam dignam dixere mori, quia voce quietem
Importuna sequi non pateretur heram.
Sed magis hoc facto quas dura priore fatigat
Conditio, quam non ferre labore caret.
Nam non rite notans hera lapsi temporis horas
Saepius has prima surgere nocte iubet.
Consilii spem saepe bonam comitabitur error,
Raro conveniens exitus esse solet.

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 femina quaedam
traduceret viduos annos
et quaereret sibi cibum
texendi arte,
ad solitum laborem
mox noctu
famulas vocat
ubi nempe sonat
vox prima Galli.
Illa causa iubebat
fatigatas exhausti mole laboris,
(ut) hanc interficerent avem,
quam dixere
dignam mori,
quia voce importuna
non pateretur heram
sequi quietem.
Sed hoc facto
quas [ancillas] fatigat
magis priore
dura conditio,
quam ferre
non caret labore,
nam hera
non rite notans
lapsi temporis horas,
saepius iubet has
prima surgere nocte.
Saepe comitabitur
spem bonam
error consilii;
raro exitus
conveniens esse solet.

I like the detail in Osius that the maids are hypocrites into the bargain, claiming that they are killing the rooster on behalf of their mistress!

For an illustration, here is an image from Walter Crane's Aesop which tells the story in limerick form:

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