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I.12. Cervus ad Fontem


Parallels: For parallel versions, see Perry 74.


Laudatis utiliora quae contempseris,

saepe inveniri testis haec narratio est.

Ad fontem cervus, cum bibisset, restitit,

et in liquore vidit effigiem suam.

Ibi dum ramosa mirans laudat cornua

crurumque nimiam tenuitatem vituperat,

venantum subito vocibus conterritus,

per campum fugere coepit, et cursu levi

canes elusit. Silva tum excepit ferum;

in qua retentis impeditus cornibus

lacerari coepit morsibus saevis canum.

Tum moriens edidisse vocem hanc dicitur:

"O me infelicem, qui nunc demum intellego,

utilia mihi quam fuerint quae despexeram,

et, quae laudaram, quantum luctus habuerint".


Here is the poem in a more prose-like word order for easy reading:


Laudatis utiliora quae contempseris:

haec narratio est testis

saepe inveniri.

Cum cervus bibisset,

restitit ad fontem

et vidit in liquore suam effigiem.

Dum ibi mirans laudat ramosa cornua

et vituperat nimiam tenuitatem crurum,

subito conterritus vocibus venantum,

coepit fugere per campum,

et elusit canes cursu levi.

Tum silva excepit ferum;

in qua impeditus retentis cornibus

coepit lacerari morsibus saevis canum.

Tum moriens

dicitur edidisse hanc vocem:

"O me infelicem,

qui nunc demum intellego,

quam utilia mihi fuerint

quae despexeram,

et quantum luctus habuerint

quae laudaram."


Here is the poem with meter marks:


Lauda~tis u~tiljo~ra quae ~ contemp~seris,

saep(e) in~veni~ri tes~tis haec ~ narra~ti(o) est.

Ad fon~tem cer~vus, cum ~ bibis~set, re~stitit,

et in ~ liquo~re vi~dit ef~figjem ~ suam.

Ib' dum ~ ramo~sa mi~rans lau~dat cor~nua

crurum~que nim~jam ten~vita~tem vit'~perat,

venan~tum sub'~to vo~cibus ~ conter~ritus,

per cam~pum fug~'re coe~pit, et ~ cursu ~ levi

canes ~ elu~sit. Sil~va tum ~ excep't ~ ferum;

in qua ~ reten~tis im~pedi~tus cor~nibus

lac'ra~ri coe~pit mor~sibus ~ saevis ~ canum.

Tum mor~jens e~didis~se vo~c(em h)anc di~citur:

"O m(e) in~feli~cem, qui ~ nunc de~m(um) intel~lego,

util~ja mi(h)i ~ quam fve~rint quae ~ despex~eram,

et, quae ~ lauda~ram, quan~tum luc~tus hab~verint".




You praise as very useful things which you despised: this story is proof that it often turns out that way. When a stag was drinking he paused at the spring and saw his reflection in the water. While he stood there admiring and praising his branching horns and condemning the excessive slenderness of his legs, all of a sudden he was terrified by the sounds of hunters and began to flee across the field; he escaped the dogs thanks to his swift pace. Then the woods took the wild creature in, but he was caught up in those woods when his horns got stuck and he began to be mauled by the savage biting of the dogs. Then as he was dying, the stag is said to have made this speech: "O woe is me: now I understand at last how useful to me were the things I had despised - as for the things I praised, how much grief they held for me!"


[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.]


The Stag at the Fountain (trans. C. Smart)

FULL often what you now despise

Proves better than the things you prize;

Let Esop's narrative decide:

A Stag beheld, with conscious pride,

(As at the fountain-head he stood)

His image in the silver flood,

And there extols his branching horns,

While his poor spindle-shanks he scorns-

But, lo! he hears the hunter's cries,

And, frightened, o'er the champaign flies--

His swiftness baffles the pursuit:

At length a wood receives the brute,

And by his horns entangled there,

The pack began his flesh to tear:

Then dying thus he wail'd his fate:

"Unhappy me! and wise too late!

How useful what I did disdain!

How grievous that which made me vain!




Here is an illustration from an early printed edition; click on the image for a larger view.



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