Monday, November 23, 2009

Formica et Scarabaeus (Furia)

I haven't had time to work on this blog lately, but I got a very interesting request from a teacher who needed a public domain translation of the fable of the ant and the dung-beetle. This is not a very well-known fable. To my knowledge, it is only found in the Greek prose collections (in Chambry, it is Fable 241 = Perry 112), and I don't actually own the rights to my Oxford translation. So, I was not sure what to do... but then I remembered that in the wonderful edition of the Greek prose fables by Franciscus de Furia (Fabulae Aesopicae, published in 1810) there are Latin translations of the Greek. So here is what I have done: I took the Latin version by de Furia and translated that into English - which I can release here without any concerns for copyright. Meanwhile, I've also included the Latin for anyone who is interested!
Formica aestivo tempore arva circumiens, frumentum ac hordeum colligebat, sibique, ut vesci posset hieme, recondebat. Hanc videns, Scarabaeus, ingentum quidem eius laborem atque sollicitudinem est admiratus, quod nimirum eo tempore, quo animalia cetera, labore remisso, otia trahunt, ipsa contra ita labori insudaret. Ad haec Formica tunc nihil respondit. Postea vero, cum hiems advenisset, atque fimus, nimio imbre perfusus, omnino madefactus esset, Scarabaeus fame correptus ad eam se contulit, ac, ut aliquid cibi daret, enixe rogavit. Cui illa, Si tum, Scarabaee, escam tibi comparasses, cum me laborantem increpabas, nunc profecto non indigeres. Pari modo, qui ubertatis causa nullam futuri curam habent, conversis deinde temporibus, calamitatibus maximis opprimuntur.
Here is the English translation of the Latin:
While it was summer, the Ant went around the fields, gathering grains and barley, and she stored this away for herself in order to have something to eat during the winter. Watching the Ant, the Dung-Beetle was amazed at how worried the Ant was and how much work she was doing. Apparently while all the other animals had put aside their work for the summer and were taking it easy, the Ant was sweating and working hard. The Ant had nothing to say to the Dung-Beetle at that time but later, when winter came, and the dung was completely soaked by the winter rains, the Dung-Beetle, stricken with hunger, came to the Ant and begged her urgently to give him something to eat. The Ant then said to him: "Dung-Beetle, if you had prepared some food for yourself when you were making fun of me for working, then you would have plenty to eat." The same is true about people who in a time of prosperity do not think about the future; then, when times change, they find themselves in terrible trouble.
Here's an illustration for the fable (image source) - as you can see, if the dung gets wet during the winter rains, the poor dung-beetle would definitely not be able to roll it up into a nice ball!

Aesop's Fables in Latin now available at