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Fable of the Day: De Aucupe et fringilla



Title
: De Aucupe et fringilla: The Bird-Catcher and the Finch, by Abstemius


Latin Text:



Auceps tetenderat volucribus retia, largamque illis in area effunderat escam, pascentes tamen aves non capiebat, quia sibi videbantur paucae; quibus pastis avolantibus, aliae pastum adveniunt, quas quoque propter paucitatem capere neglexit. Hoc per totum diem ordine servato, ac aliis advenientibus, aliis abeuntibus, illo semper maiorem praedam expectante, tandem advesperascere coeperat; tunc auceps amissa spe multas capiendi, cum iam tempus esset quiescendi, attrahens retia, unam tantum fringillam, quae infelix in area remanserat, cepit. Haec fabula indicat qui omnia comprehendere volunt saepe pauca vix capere posse.


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



Auceps
tetenderat volucribus retia,
largamque illis in area effunderat escam,
pascentes tamen aves
non capiebat,
quia sibi videbantur paucae;
quibus pastis avolantibus,
aliae
pastum adveniunt,
quas quoque
propter paucitatem
capere neglexit.
Hoc per totum diem
ordine servato,
ac aliis advenientibus, aliis abeuntibus,
illo semper maiorem praedam expectante,
tandem advesperascere coeperat;
tunc auceps
amissa spe multas capiendi,
cum iam tempus esset quiescendi,
attrahens retia,
unam tantum fringillam,
quae infelix in area remanserat,
cepit.
Haec fabula indicat
qui omnia comprehendere volunt
saepe pauca vix capere posse.

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



Translation:



A bird-catcher had stretched out his nets for the birds and had poured out plenteous bait for them in the place, but he did not catch any of the birds as they came to feed, since they seemed scanty to him. Those birds ate their fill and flew away, and others came to feed, which likewise he failed to catch on account of their being scanty. This went on all day long following the same pattern, birds came, they went, and the bird-catcher all the while was hoping for bigger prey. Finally it began to grow dark and so the bird-catcher abandoned all hope of catching big birds now that it was time to rest, and pulled in his nets, and caught only one little finch who unluckily had remained on the ground. The fable shows that those who want to get everything are often barely able to catch something small.



[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 39 (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:



A Fowler that had bent his Net, and laid his Bait, planted himself in the Bird-Catcher's Place, to watch for a Draught. There came a great many Birds one after another, that lighted, and peck'd a while, and so away again. At this rate they kept coming and going all the Day long; but so few at a time, that the Man did not think them worth a Pluck. At last, when he had slipt all his Opportunities in hope a better Hit, the Evening came on, and the Birds were gone to Bed, so that he must either Draw then or not at all; and in the conclusion, he was e'en fain to content himself with the one single Chaffinch, that had the Misfortune to be later abroad than her Fellows.
Men are so greedy after what's to come, which is uncertain, that the slip present Opportunities, which are never to be recover'd.
[Note: You can find more of these fables at the old blog address for Latin Via Fables.]
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