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Fable of the Day: De Vidua et asino viridi

Title: De Vidua et asino viridi: The Widow and The Green Donkey, by Abstemius


Latin Text:



Vidua quaedam, coelibatum exosa, nubere cupiebat sed non audebat, verita vulgi irrisiones, qui maledictis eas solet incessere quae ad secundas transeunt nuptias. Sed commater eius, quam contemnendae essent populi voces hac arte monstravit. Iussit enim asinum album, quem vidua habebat, viridi colore depingi et per omnes vicos circumduci. Quod cum fieret, tanta admiratione ab initio omnes invaserat, ut non solum pueri, verum etiam senes hac re insolita moti asinum animi gratia comitarentur. Deinde cum huiusmodi animal quotidie per urbem duceretur, defierunt admirari. "Itidem," inquit ad viduam commater, "eveniet tibi. Si enim virum acceperis, aliquot dies eris fabula vulgi. Deinde hic sermo conticescet." Haec fabula indicat nullam rem esse tam dignam admiratione, quae diuturnitate temporis non desinat esse miraculum.


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



Vidua quaedam,
coelibatum exosa,
nubere cupiebat
sed non audebat,
verita vulgi irrisiones,
qui maledictis eas solet incessere
quae ad secundas transeunt nuptias.
Sed commater eius,
quam contemnendae essent populi voces
hac arte monstravit.
Iussit enim
asinum album,
quem vidua habebat,
viridi colore depingi
et per omnes vicos circumduci.
Quod cum fieret,
tanta admiratione ab initio
omnes invaserat,
ut non solum pueri,
verum etiam senes
hac re insolita moti
asinum animi gratia comitarentur.
Deinde
cum huiusmodi animal
quotidie per urbem duceretur,
defierunt admirari.
"Itidem," inquit ad viduam commater,
"eveniet tibi.
Si enim virum acceperis,
aliquod dies eris fabula vulgi.
Deinde hic sermo conticescet."
Haec fabula indicat
nullam rem esse
tam dignam admiratione,
quae diuturnitate temporis
non desinat esse miraculum.

Crossword Puzzle: You can play a crossword puzzle based on this story at LatinCrossword.com.

Translation:



There was a certain widow who felt a loathing for her widow's life and wanted to get married but did not dare to do it, fearing the mocking of the crowd who are accustomed to harangue with insults those women who enter into a second marriage. But her commadre (female compadre!) showed by means of this technique just how trivial the voices of the people are: she ordered that a white donkey which the widow had in her possession, should be painted a green color and led through all the villages. When this happened, at first it struck everyone with such a sense of wonder that not only the children but even the old men our of curiosity attended the donkey, provoked by this unlikely business. Then when this sort of creature had been led through the city day after day, they stopped being amazing. The woman said to the widow: "The same thing will happen in your case: if you take a husband, for some days you will be a matter of common gossip, but finally this chatter will fall silent." This fable shows that there is no thing so worthy of wonderment which does not cease to be a miracle with the passage of time.



[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 80 (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:



There was a Widow that had a Twittering toward a Second Husband, and she took a gossiping Companion of hers to her Assistance, how to manage the Jobb. The Truth of it is, says she, I have a dear Mind to another Bedfellow: But the Devilish People would keep such a Snearing, and Pointing at me, they'd make me e'en weary of my Life. You are a Fine Widow i' faith, says T'other, to trouble your Head for the Talk of the People, Pray will ye mind what I say to ye now. You have an Ass here in your Grounds; go your Ways and get that Ass painted Green, and then let him be carry'd up and down the Country for a Show. Do this, I say, without any more Words; for talk does but Burn Day-Light. The Thing was done accordingly; and for the First Four or Five days, the Green Ass had the whole Country at his Heels; Man, Woman and Child, staring and hooting after him. In Four or Five Days more, the Humour was quite spent, and the Ass might travel from Morning to Night, and not one Creature to take Notice of him. Now, (says the friendly Adviser) a New-marry'd Widow is a kind of a Green Ass: Every Body's Mouth will be full on't for the First Four or Five Days, and in Four or Five more, the Story will e'en talk it self asleep.
Common Fame is as False and Impudent as a Common Strumpet. Let every Man live to his Confidence, and never trouble his Head with the Talk of the People.



[Note: You can find more of these fables at the old blog address for Latin Via Fables.]
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Views: 178

Comment by Raphaela on October 10, 2007 at 2:51am
Great story! But shouldn't it be "aliquot dies", not "aliquod"?
Comment by Laura Gibbs on October 10, 2007 at 5:22pm
The perils of typing - but also the joy of easily fixing things on the Internet (unlike published books... ugh!) - thanks!

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