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Fable of the Day: De Testudine et Ranis

[Note: You can find more of these fables at the old blog address for Latin Via Fables.]

Title
: De Testudine et Ranis: The Tortoise and The Frogs, by Abstemius


Latin Text:



Testudo conspicata ranas, quae in eodem stagno pascebantur, adeo leves agilesque, ut facile quolibet prosilirent et longissime saltarent, naturam accusabat, quod se tardum animal et maximo onere impeditum procreasset, utque, ne facile se movere posset, magna assiduo mole premeretur. At ubi vidit ranas anguillarum escam fieri et cuiuscumque vel levissimo ictu obnoxias, aliquantulum recreata dicebat, "Quanto melius est onus, quo ad omnes ictus munita sum ferre, quam tot mortis subire discrimina." Haec fabula indicat ne aegre feramus dona naturae, quae maiori nobis commodo saepius sunt quam nos intelligere valeamus.


Here is a segmented version to help you see the grammatical patterns:



Testudo
conspicata ranas,
quae
in eodem stagno pascebantur,
adeo leves agilesque,
ut facile quolibet prosilirent
et longissime saltarent,
naturam accusabat,
quod
se
tardum animal
et maximo onere impeditum
procreasset,
utque,
ne facile se movere posset,
magna assiduo mole premeretur.
At ubi vidit ranas
anguillarum escam fieri
et cuiuscumque vel levissimo ictu obnoxias,
aliquantulum recreata
dicebat,
"Quanto melius est onus,
quo
ad omnes ictus
munita sum ferre,
quam tot mortis subire discrimina."
Haec fabula indicat
ne aegre feramus dona naturae,
quae maiori nobis commodo
saepius sunt
quam nos intelligere valeamus.

Crossword Puzzle: You can play a crossword puzzle based on the vocabulary in this fable.



Translation:



A tortoise saw some frogs who were feeding in the same lake. The frogs were so light and nimble that they were able to leap easily wherever they wanted and to make huge jumps. The tortoise denounced Mother Nature because she had created the tortoise to be a slow animal, and weighed down by a huge burden so that the tortoise was continually pressed down by her massive load. But when the tortoise saw the frogs become food for eels, and liable to fall at the slightest blow of any creature, she felt somewhat better and said, "How much better this burden is, by which I am protected, able to withstand any blow, rather than to suffer so many deadly threats." This fable shows that we ought not to protest the gifts of Mother Nature, which are quite often for our greater convenience than we are even able to understand ourselves.



[This translation is meant as a help in understanding the story, not as a "crib" for the Latin. I have not hesitated to change the syntax to make it flow more smoothly in English, altering the verb tense consistently to narrative past tense, etc.]



Source: Abstemius 34 (You can see a 1499 edition of Abstemius online, but I am doing my transcription from the 1568 edition of Aesopi fabulae in the EEBO catalog.)



Another English translation. Sir Roger L'Estrange included the fables of Abstemius in his amazing 17th-century edition of Aesop's fables. So, here is L'Estrange's translation:



As a Company of Frogs were trifling and playing up and down in a Meadow, some Tortoises, that look'd on, were mightily troubled that they could not do so too: But taking notice a while after, how these Frogs were pick'd up, and destroy'd by Birds and Fishes: Well (says one of 'em) 'tis better to live Dull and Heavy, than to die Light and Nimble.
Every Part and Creature of the Universe has its proper Place Station, and Faculties assign'd; and to wish it otherwise, were to find fault with Providence.

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