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Fable of the Day: De luscinia et accipitre

Title: De Luscinia cantum accipitri pro vita pollicente: About the nightingale promising to sing for the hawk in exchange for her life, by Abstemius


Latin Text:



Luscinia, ab accipitre famelico comprehensa, dummodo se ab eo devorandam esse intelligeret, blande eum rogabat, ut se dimitteret, pollicita pro tanto beneficio ingentem mercedem se relaturam. Cum autem accipiter eam interrogaret, quid gratiae sibi referre posset. Aures, inquit, tuas mellifluis cantibus demulcebo. At ego, inquit accipiter, malo mihi ventrem demulceas. Sine tuis enim cantibus vivere, sine cibo non possum. Haec fabula innuit utilia iucundis anteponenda.


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



Luscinia,

ab accipitre famelico comprehensa,
dummodo se ab eo devorandam esse intelligeret,
blande eum rogabat,
ut se dimitteret,
pollicita
pro tanto beneficio
ingentem mercedem se relaturam.
Cum autem accipiter eam interrogaret,
quid gratiae sibi referre posset.
Aures, inquit, tuas
mellifluis cantibus demulcebo.
At ego, inquit accipiter, malo
mihi ventrem demulceas.
Sine tuis enim cantibus
vivere,
sine cibo non possum.
Haec fabula innuit
utilia iucundis anteponenda.


Translation:



A nightingale had been caught by a hungry hawk. When she realized taht she was going to be devoured by him, she sweetly asked that he let her go, promising that she would grant him an enormous reward in exchange for such a kindness. When, however, the hawk asked her what kind of favor she could do him, she said: I will soothe your ears with sweet songs. But I, said the hawk, prefer that you sooth my stomach, for I can live without your songs, but I cannot live without food. This fable shows that useful things are to be preferred to pleasant ones.



[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 92 (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 Nightingale was Singing in a Bush, down comes a Rascally Kite of a Sparrow-Hawk, and whips her off the Bough: The Poor Wretch pleaded for her self, that alas! her Little Carcass was not worth the while, and that there were bigger Birds enough to be found. Well, says the Hawk, but am I so mad, d'ye think. as to part with a Little Bird that I have, for a Great One that I have not? Why then, says she, I'll give you a delicate Song for my Life: No, no, says the Hawk, I want for my Belly, not for my Ears.
A Bird in the Hand is worth Two in the Bush.

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