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Fable of the Day: De Asino et Vitulo

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

Title
: De Asino et Vitulo: Donkey and Calf, by Abstemius


Latin Text:



Asinus et vitulus in eodem pascentes prato, sonitu campanae hostilem exercitum adventare praesenserant. Tum vitulus: "Fugiamus hinc, o sodalis (inquit) ne hostes nos captivos abducant." Cui asinus: "Fuge tu (inquit) quem hostes occidere et esse consueverunt; asini nihil interest, cui ubique eadem ferendi oneris est proposita conditio." Haec fabula servos admonet ne dominos magnopere mutare formident, modo prioribus deteriores futuri non sint.

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


Asinus et vitulus
in eodem pascentes prato,
sonitu campanae
hostilem exercitum adventare praesenserant.
Tum vitulus:
"Fugiamus hinc,
o sodalis (inquit)
ne hostes
nos captivos abducant."
Cui asinus:
"Fuge tu (inquit)
quem
hostes
occidere et esse consueverunt;
asini nihil interest,
cui ubique
eadem
ferendi oneris
est proposita conditio."
Haec fabula servos admonet
ne dominos magnopere mutare formident,
modo prioribus deteriores
futuri non sint.

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

Translation:



A donkey and a calf feeding in the same pasture, at the song of the bell realized that the enemy army was approaching. Then the calf said: "Let's run away from here, comrade, so that the enemy will not lead us away as prisoners." The donkey said to him, "You go ahead and run away, since you are the kind of creature whom the enemy are in the habit of killing and eating. Donkeys don't care about such things: for us, we always get assigned the same job of bearing burdens." This fable advises servants not to fear overmuch a change in masters, so long as they are no worse than the previous masters.

[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 8 (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. You will notice that his fable does not really follow Abstemius. Rather, l'Estrange acts as if he were dealing here with a very similar fable by Phaedrus, the story of the donkey and his master:

As a Country-man was Grazing his Ass in a Meadow, comes a Hot Alarm, that the Enemy was just falling into their Quarters. The poor Man calls presently to his Ass, in a terrible Fright, to scoure away as fast as he could scamper: for, says he, we shall be taken else. Well, quoth the Ass, and what if we should be Taken? I have one Pack-Saddle upon my Back already, Will they clap another a-topof that, d'ye think? I can but be a Slave where-ever I am: so that Taken or not Taken, 'tis all a Case to Me.
It's some Comfort for a Body to be so Low that he cannot fall: And in such a Condition already that he cannot well be worse. If a Man be born to be a Slave, no Matter to what Master.

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