Thursday, January 08, 2009

Fable 75: Catta in Feminam Mutata

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 75 in the book: De Catta in Feminam Mutata. For more information about this fable, see the Discussion Forum for this fable at the Aesopus Ning.
Catta quaedam delicium erat formosi cuiusdam Adolescentis Veneremque oravit ut in feminam mutaret. Dea, miserta cupiditatis Adolescentuli, convertit Cattam in puellam. Quam, cum longe speciosa esset, Amator domum abduxit. Venus, experiri cupiens si, mutata facie, mutasset et mores, in medium constituit murem. Quem cum illa aspexit, oblita formae, murem ut caperet persecuta est. Qua super re indignata, Venus denuo eam in priorem Cattae formam mutavit.
Catta quaedam
= We meet one of the main characters in the story here in the opening words. While the noun cattus is the usual late Latin word for “cat,” the feminine form can also be found, as here in this story.

delicium erat formosi cuiusdam Adolescentis
= Here we meet another of the main characters: a young man. The noun delicium is in the predicate: catta... delicium erat.

Veneremque oravit
= Who do you think is the subject of the verb here: the cat, or the young man? Grammatically, there is no way to be certain, so you have to identifyi the subject based on context.

ut in feminam mutaret.
= The subject of this verb is the goddess Venus.

Dea, miserta cupiditatis Adolescentuli,
= The participle miserta (“take pity on”) takes a genitive complement.

convertit Cattam in puellam.
= The form convertit could be either present or perfect, but given the perfect verbs preceding (oravit) and following (abduxit), it is probably best to take the verb as a perfect form.

= The referent of the relative pronoun is puella in the previous sentence. The pronoun is in the accusative case, and you are going to have to wait for a while - until after the cum clause - to find out why she is in the accusative case!

cum longe speciosa esset,
= The subjunctive, introduced by cum, gives causal background information; this is why the man takes the girl home with him.

Amator domum abduxit.
= You now have the verb which completes the relative clause: quam (puellam) amator domum abduxit; this use of domum in the accusative means “to the house, homeward.”

Venus, experiri cupiens
= The participle cupiens takes a complementary infinitive: experiri.

si, mutata facie, mutasset et mores,
= The word si introduces an indirect question with the subjunctive; note also the adverbial use of et, meaning “also." The phrase mutata facie is an ablative absolute construction.

in medium constituit murem.
= Be careful: murem is the object of the verb, while the prepositional phrase in medium means simply "into the middle (of the room)" or "into (their) midst."

Quem cum illa aspexit,
= The referent of the relative pronoun is murem in the previous sentence: quem (murem) cum illa aspexit. Note also the use of cum plus the indicative.

oblita formae,
= The participle oblita (“being forgetful of”) takes a genitive complement.

murem ut caperet
= The murem here serves not only as the object of the verb caperet but also of the main verb of the sentence. Hence the placement of murem preceding the ut.

persecuta est.
= The deponent verb persecuta est is transitive and takes a direct object in the accusative: murem . . . persecuta est.

Qua super re indignata,
= The phrase qua re wraps around the preposition, referring back to the events described previously (the woman chasing the mouse).

Venus denuo
= The adverb denuo is a contracted form of de novo (compare the English adverb "anew").

eam in priorem Cattae formam mutavit.
= The pronoun eam refers to the woman, formerly a cat: eam (puellam) mutavit.

Here is the illustration of the fable by Francis Barlow:

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Unknown said...

If you don't mind me asking, Why are some of the words capatalized that do not begin a sentence and are not proper names, I haven't encountered that before.
For example 'Adolescentis Veneremque', 'Adolescentuli' and 'Cattae'

Laura Gibbs said...

Hi Jeremy, that is a great question, and it is one that I pondered when doing this book. The characters in the fables - usually all the TALKING characters anyway - are usually capitalized. So here, even though "Young Man" is not a name per se, it functions kind of like a name in the context of the story. In fact, in Aesop's fables, the characters almost never have names - instead, they are just known by their titles or species, if they are animals: Young Man, Farmer, Hunter, Lion, Fox, Rabbit, etc.

Another factor is that in 17th-century books, the style of capitalization is really wild! It was much more common to capitalize abstract nouns, such as Truth, Love, Justice, Fear, etc. - and in some 17th-century texts practically all the nouns are capitalized (as in German, even today). The modern spelling and capitalization rules that we are used to now in English were not yet fully established in the 17th century.

So, I went a middle route with my version of the book - I kept the capitalized names of the characters, but I did not capitalize all the other nouns that you can see capitalized in the original book.

If you want to see the actual page of the 17th-century book that this fable comes from, you can see it here:
The Young Man and his Cat