Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fable 5: Cornix et Urna

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 5 in the book: De Cornice et Urna. For more information Fable about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.
Sitibunda Cornix reperit urnam aqua plenam, sed erat urna profundior quam ut exhauri a Cornice possit. Conatur igitur vano molimine aquam effundere, sed non valet. Lectos igitur ex arena lapillulos iniectat. Hoc modo aqua levatur et Cornix bibit.
Sitibunda Cornix
= There are lots of these marvelous adjectives in -bundus to be found in these Aesop texts: fremebundus, gemebundus, gloriabundus, indignabundus, laetabundus, supplicabundus, vorabundus. In terms of borrowing into English, there are not so many - moribund is the only one that comes to mind!

reperit urnam aqua plenam,
= Note the ablative as a complement to the adjective, which sometimes take a genitive complement, and sometimes an ablative, as here.

sed erat urna profundior
= The comparative adjective sets up a comparison, so you are wanting an ablative or a quam to go with that.

quam ut exhauri a Cornice possit.
= And there you have it: the quam you were hoping for. Since the term of comparison is a verbal phrase, the quam is required, rather than a simple ablative for expressing the comparison: the jug is deeper than could be drained by the crow - or, using a more typical active rather than passive construction English: deeper than the crow could reach to drink.

Conatur igitur
= There's a very nice postpositive particle, indicating the beginning of a new sentence, and letting us know that what is about to happen is a logical consequence of the prior statement. The verb needs an infinitive complement, so we are hoping for an infinitive.

vano molimine aquam effundere,
= And here comes the infinitive, just what we wanted. Although the word molimen might not be familiar, it is a typical noun formation from a verbal stem, as likewise in acumen, agmen, certamen, flumen, nomen. Of those, nomen is my favorite: the name is a "knowing" of something.

sed non valet.
= As often, Latin does not repeat words unnecessarily - so you can supply the complementary infinitive here from before: effundere non valet.

Lectos igitur ex arena lapillulos
= Another logical consequence, marked by the postpositive particle. We've got an accusative noun phrase, which conveys what would be a clause on its own in English: after the crow gathered little stones from the sand... (main verb). We're still waiting for the main verb, of course; this accusative noun phrase needs to be the object of something. Notice also the lovely diminutive, not just a single diminutive (lapillus), but a double diminutive: lapillulus, what we might call gravel, teeny-tiny pebbles.

= Perfect! This is the verb that we need for the accusative noun phrase.

Hoc modo aqua levatur
= There is no postpositive particle weaving this sentence into the previous sentence: instead we have a bold declarative phrase: "in THIS way (i.e., not effortlessly, and not by sheer force) the water is raised up."

et Cornix bibit.
= This simple statement provides a perfect finale for a story which started with the phrase sitibunda Cornix.

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!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fable 4: Mus Rusticus et Mus Urbanus

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 4 in the book: De Mure Urbano et Mure Rustico. For more information Fable about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.
Mus Rusticus, videns Urbanum Murem rus deambulantem, invitat ad cenam depromitque omne penum, ut tanti hospitis expleat lautitiam. Urbanus Mus ruris damnat inopiam urbisque copiam laudat, secumque in urbem ducit Rusticum. Qui, inter epulandum attonitus insolitis clamoribus, cum intellexerat periculum quotidianum esse, dixit Urbano Muri, “Tuae dapes plus fellis quam mellis habent. Malo securus esse cum mea inopia quam dives esse cum tua anxietate.”
Mus Rusticus,
= The noun mus is clearly related to the English word "mouse" through a shared Indo-European inheritance, and the same root is found in the words for mouse in the Indo- branches of the family, such as Persian and Sanskrit. In terms of a direct borrowing from Latin, consider the diminutive musculus, "little mouse," which gives us the English word "muscle," so called from the way it looks like a little mouse running beneath the skin. There was a precedent for this already in Greek, where the word for mouse, again μῦς (genitive μυός) was used to refer to "muscle," hence the English medical term "myo-" referring to muscle, as in "myocardial," etc. The Latin musculus also gave us "mussel," referring to the shellfish; the two words, "muscle" and "mussel," shared an identical spelling in English until the late 19th century.

videns Urbanum Murem
= As often in Aesop, where the fable is based on an antagonistic relationship between two characters, both characters have now been introduced in the first words of the fable.

rus deambulantem,
= Notice that the verb can take a direct object, "strolling the countryside," "strolling through the field." Don't be fooled by the superficial similarity in form: rus (ruris) is a neuter noun, unlike mus (muris).

invitat ad cenam
= You will often see the spelling coena in Latin, although this is what is called a "hypercorrection." In later Latin, for many speakers there was no clear distinction in sound between e, ae and oe, you will find the same word spelled variously: cena, caena and coena. The archaic Latin spelling was caesna, and the classical Latin spelling is cena. (You will see this same confusion in the spelling of other words, such as caelum and coelum, etc.

depromitque omne penum,
= The penum, the store of food kept in the inmost part of the house, was guarded for the Romans by the Penates, the gods of the inner part of the house. You can see this same root in the word penetrare, as in the English "penetrate."

ut tanti hospitis expleat lautitiam.
= Notice how the genitive phrase with its noun, "the luxurious lifestyle of such a great guest," wraps around the verb. The Latin lautitia is from the root lavare, "to wash," with the idea being something that is washed is neat and clean, and thus elegant. From the same root we get the English "lavish."

Urbanus Mus
= The country mouse was the subject of the first sentence, and now the city mouse will be the subject of the second sentence.

ruris damnat inopiam
= Again the noun phrase is wrapped around the verb.

urbisque copiam laudat,
= In an elegant variation there is a parallel construction, but with a slightly different word order: instead of genitive-verb-noun, you now have genitive-noun-verb, with the verb in an emphatic position. The praise was no doubt fulsome.

= This is a compound word, in inverted order: secumque = et cum se.

in urbem ducit Rusticum.

= Notice the substantive use of the adjective, rusticum, "the rustic" (i.e. the rustic mouse, the country mouse). The substantive use of adjectives in English always sounds a bit archaic or formal, while they are used quite naturally in Latin, which generally prefers to omit any word which can be easily supplied from context.

= As often in Latin, the relative pronoun is found here at the beginning of the sentence - or, in more abstract terms, this use of the relative pronoun blurs the distinction of just what a sentence really is. Grammatically speaking, the choice to capitalize the relative pronoun and make it the beginning of the sentence is an editorial choice. Grammatically, this is a relative clause like any other.

inter epulandum
= The use of the gerund (verbal noun) with the preposition inter indicates 'while (something is happening)." There is no passive sense about the form at all; it is extremely important not to confuse the gerund as if it conveyed a passive sense; it does not. The gerund is active in meaning. If you are puzzled as to how a form could sometimes convey a passive sense (in the future passive participle) and an active sense (as here in the gerund), it may be helpful to consider the gerund to be an impersonal form. As often, impersonal verbs may be passive in form simply in order to avoid stating the subject, while active in meaning (dicitur, "it is said" means something equivalent to the English "they say" - the significance of the form is not passive as opposed to active, but rather impersonal as opposed to personal). Compare the similar development of the supine, which is clearly active in meaning (but impersonal), as opposed to the perfect passive participle.

attonitus insolitis clamoribus,
= Note the use of the negating prefix in- with the adjective solitus: in-solitus, "un-accustomed." This use of the negating prefix in- with an adjective formed from a verbal stem reveals the source of some ambiguities in the use of the prefix with adjectives on the one hand, and with verbs on the other hand (compare invito in this story, for example, where the prefix is not negating at all!). Historically, the negating prefix in- is related both to English un- and to the alpha-privative negation found in both Greek and Sanskrit (as reflected in English words a-moral, an-archy, etc.).

cum intellexerat
= Note the use here of the indicative with cum, indicating the time when soemthing happened; when he had understood, the country mouse spoke up!

periculum quotidianum esse,
= An accusative plus infinitive construction to express indirect speech, or what you might call here indirect thought, since this is what the mouse was thinking. The noun provides the subject of the sentence, with the adjective in the predicate.

dixit Urbano Muri,
= As often, the last words spoken by one of the characters in the fable itself express one form of the "moral of the story."

“Tuae dapes
= Compare the simple word cena, "dinner" with the word here, meaning "feast" or "banquet."

plus fellis quam mellis habent.
= Note the rhyming quality of the moral here. Both fellis and mellis are partitive genitives: "more (of) bile" = "more bile."

= This interesting verb is a contraction of magis volo, with the magis able to introduce a comparative phrase (see quam below for the completion of the comparison).

securus esse cum mea inopia
= Notice here that the predicate adjective securus agrees with the subject of the verb malo. The infinitive here is not taking a subject of its own; instead, it is a complement to the verb malo, which supplies the subject in the nominative case (implied ego).

= This completes the comparison introduced by malo.

dives esse cum tua anxietate.”
= Notice the parallel construction with securus esse cum mea inopia, with both the word forms and word order in perfect parallel.

Here is the illustration of the fable by Francis Barlow:

For more information about subscribing to this blog via RSS or by email, visit the Bestiaria Latina blog using the link provided here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fable 3: Partus Montium

Here's the next fable with a kind of running commentary that is not entirely possible within the confines of the forthcoming Aesop book from Bolchazy-Carducci. This will be Fable 3 in the book: De Partu Montium. For more information Fable about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.
Rumor erat parturire Montes. Homines undique accurrunt et circumstant, monstri quidpiam non sine pavore expectantes. Montes tandem parturiunt; exit ridiculus Mus.
Rumor erat
= This fable nicely introduces the main theme in the first word: rumor, the same word in Latin and in English. Unlike other Aesop's fables which feature a confrontation between two opposing characters, this is one of the more atypical fables in which the fool - in this case, the fools, the human beings who believe the rumors - figure out their mistake on their own, without an antagonist to unmask it for them. The lioness rebuked the fox in the first fable, and the ox rebuked the dog in the second fable, but in this fable you will see that the humans end up having to rebuke themselves for their own foolishness.

parturire Montes.
= The accusative plus infinitive construction here is introduced by the previous phrase, rumor erat, "Rumor had it (that)..."

Homines undique accurrunt et circumstant,
= The wonderful word undique conveys the sense of "from all sides," a compound of unde, "from where, whence" with the same suffix as in the familiar form quisque, "each, every." Compare the English word "ubiquitous," meaning everywhere. If we were to borrow the Latin undique in the same manner, we would have something that is "undiquitous," coming from all sides!

monstri quidpiam
= The word monstri is a partitive genitive: quidpiam (something) monstri (of an unnatural thing) = “something unnatural.” The word quidpiam is a compound, quid + piam, of which only the first part declines, giving forms such as cuiuspiam (genitive), cuipiam (dative), etc.

non sine pavore expectantes.
= The double negative, non sine, "not without" (meaning with!), is an example of the rhetorical figure of speech called "litotes."

Montes tandem parturiunt;
= The Latin word tandem refers to something at the end of a series, something long awaited, "finally." In English, the word has been adopted directly from Latin, "tandem," and it originally referred to draft horses that were harnessed one behind the other in a series (hence Latin tandem), as opposed to being side by side. The term was also used to refer to a two-seated bicycle, with the riders "in tandem," one after the other. Over time, this serial dimension of English "tandem" was lost, and the word came to refer to any kind of team effort, without the specific sense of being aligned in a row.

exit ridiculus Mus.
= Notice the lovely balance in the word order: although Latin generally has verb-final sentences, the emphasize last position here is reserved by the big surprise: the mouse, which was all that emerged in the end.

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!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fable 2: Canis et Bos

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 2 in the book: De Cane et Bove, the story of the dog in the manger. For more information Fable about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.

I was really glad to be able to include this fable in the book, since "the dog in the manger" is still a well-known proverbial saying in English, but you will not find this fable attested in the classical Greek or Roman tradition. The earliest attestions of the fable are medieval; thanks to its inclusion in Steinhowel's Aesop, it became well-known throughout Europe. Here is the version from Barlow's Aesop:
In praesepi faeni pleno decumbebat Canis. Venit Bos ut comedat faenum, cum Canis, confestim sese erigens, tota voce elatravit. Cui Bos: “Dii te, cum ista tua invidia, perdant (inquit): nec enim faeno ipse vesceris, nec me vesci sines.”
In praesepi faeni pleno
= This elegant prepositional phrase sets the scene: not only is this a manger; it is a manger which is full of hay.

decumbebat Canis.
= The use of the imperfect verb also contributes to setting the scene. The dog was lying there. The use of the perfect would let us know that the dog had lain dog. What the imperfect tells us is that the action is ongoing: there he is, a dog, lying down in the manager.

Venit Bos
= The perfect verb signals an action: the entrance into the scene of the ox. As often, the fable is a confrontation between two characters, and so with the ox, both characters are now on the scene.

ut comedat faenum,
= The ut clause introduces the ox's purpose.

cum Canis ... (elatravit).
= Although we will not get the verb until the end of the sentence (as so often in Latin), it is worth noting that the word cum here introduces an indicative verb, signifying a simple statement of the time when something is happening, without any causal or other connection implied. You might even translate cum here as "as" rather than "when" in order to emphasize the almost instantaneous sequence of events.

confestim sese erigens,
= In English, we make a distinction between "raising" something (transitive) and something "rising" (intransitive). In Latin, the verb erigere is transitive (to raise something up, to erect something). If you are going to use the verb in the sense of "rising" (raising yourself up), the reflexive pronoun is required: sese.

tota voce elatravit.
= The ablative phrase serves an adverbial function: how did the dog bark? As loudly as he could!

Cui Bos:
= The combination of a dative and a nominative here lets you know that the ox (said something) to the dog; you'll get the verb of speaking parenthetically later. The referent of the relative pronoun is canis in the previous sentence: cui (cani) bos.

“Dii te
= As often in Latin, you get the nominative subject of the verb and the direct object, with no mention of the verb. Of course, you can guess what it is: "God (blank) you" would be very clear in English, too!

cum ista tua invidia,
= Here cum is a preposition taking the ablative case. The use of ista is typical. Linguistically, the word iste commonly refers to "that there (of yours)," often with a derogatory or dismissive connotation. You can even find iste defined as "the demonstrative pronoun of the second person." The usage here is clearly derogatory!

= This gives us the verb we were waiting for: perdant. The subjunctive expresses the ox's fervent wish. In the first subjunctive you saw, the ox came in hopes of eating the hay (comedat). Now his hopes have taken a different turn: he hopes the gods will destroy the dog.

= This is the other verb we were hoping for, but which we could easily have done without; it is the verb of speaking which goes with the earlier cui bos. For all practical purposes this verb is really like a bit of punctuation in verbal form, alerting us that the words being reported here are direct speech. Just as in the fable about the fox and the lioness, the ox is granted the privilege of being directly quoted in the story, while the poor dog can only howl!

nec enim faeno ipse vesceris,
= Note the postpositive particle enim in second position. It lets you know that something explanatory is going to be forthcoming. Just why should the gods destroy that dog? Here is the reason! The verb takes an ablative complement (“feed on”), and ipse modifies the implied subject of the verb: (tu) ipse vesceris.

nec me vesci sines.”
The nec is part of a parallel construction, equivalent to the English correlative construction "neither...nor..." (you can think of in Latin as the negation of the construction). The verb in the first part of the construction, vesceris, is ambiguous: it could be present or future. The verb in this clause, sines, is unambiguously future: "you will not let me eat." The form vesci is a passive infinitive, a complement to the verb sines.

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!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fable 1. Leaena et Vulpes

Finally, the order of fables has been settled for the Barlow book, along with the Latin text! (That's what I've been busy with the past few weeks, and why I have not posted.) Starting today, I'll be doing presenting the fables from the Barlow book with a kind of running commentary that is not entirely possible within the confines of the book. There's some commentary in the book, of course, but there's not room for this much commentary - thank goodness for the wide open space of the Internet!

So, to get started, here is what will be the first fable in the collection: Leaena et Vulpes. For more information about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.
Leaena, cum a Vulpe saepe exprobraretur quod, quolibet partu, unum dumtaxat catulum parturiret, respondit, “Unum sane, at pol Leonem!"
= There are not very many animal names in Latin which offer both masculine and feminine forms, but the lion is one, so you can have a male lion, leo, and a lioness, leaena, as here. Another one of the fables in Barlow's Aesop tells about the lupa, the female wolf (in this case, English does not have a distinctive form for the female wolf!).

cum a Vulpe saepe exprobraretur
= This is a cum clause with a subjunctive verb - so the fact that the lioness is being reproached by the fox for something is causal - "given that she was being reproached by the fox on frequent occasions" or "because she was often the object of the fox's reproaches." Both characters in the fable - the lioness and the fox - have now been introduced.

= The quod is going to introduce the substance of the fox's complaint against the lioness: (on account of the fact) that

quolibet partu,
= "with each and every childbirth" - The Latin compound with libet is one of my favorites: it conveys the sense of whatever you like, whatever you please, it doesn't matter which one you pick, because each and every one of them will prove my point! Rhetorically it's perfectly suited to conveying the sense of the fox's tone, even if the fox is not being quoted directly here. There's an English abbreviation with this term: QL, quantum libet, "as much as it pleases, as much as you want" Apparently the word "quidlibet" was also used in English - quidlibet is defined in the Oxford English dictionary as "A verbal nicety, a minor or quibbling point in an argument; an equivocation."

unum dumtaxat catulum parturiret,
= This picks up the clause introduced by quod here - explaining the reason why the fox reproached the lioness. The use of the subjunctive here is great; this is one of those subjunctives that puts you into the mind of the speaker - "because (according to the fox anyway) she only gives birth to one cub only." The word dumtaxat is, like quolibet, a compound word built with what was originally a parenthetical verb - quo + libet, and here dum + taxat. The word dumtaxat is less obvious, since the Latin verb is not a highly productive verb: taxare means to reckon the size or value of something. So the Latin dumtaxat conveys the idea of "when you add it up" or "so long as you're keeping track," etc.

= Notice that while the fox's words were reported in indirect speech only (although with little words like quolibet and dumtaxat conveying some of the pointedness of the fox's speech), it is the lioness alone who is given the privilege here of being quoted directly.

“Unum sane,
= The verb is implied but not stated here, and has to be supplied from the fox's claim: Unum (catulum) sane (parturio). The use of sane is very nice here also - anyone who's not deranged knows that a lioness does not give birth to a whole little of pups. That is so obvious as to not even bear commenting on... although the fox seems to think it worth bringing up again and again, insanely!

at pol Leonem!”
= The lioness swears like any good Roman: By Pollux! The implied contrast, of course, is that one is a lion, as opposed to all those little fox pups, who all of them together do not add up to equal a single lion. The fact that she is also very economical in her speech - few words, few offspring, but high quality ones - fits in perfectly with the theme of the fable itself!

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!