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I.15. Asinus ad Senem


Parallels: For parallel versions, see Perry 476.


In principatu commutando civium

nil praeter domini nomen mutant pauperes.

Id esse verum, parva haec fabella indicat.

Asellum in prato timidus pascebat senex.

Is hostium clamore subito territus

suadebat asino fugere, ne possent capi.

At ille lentus "Quaeso, num binas mihi

clitellas impositurum victorem putas?"

Senex negavit. "Ergo, quid refert mea

cui serviam, clitellas dum portem unicas?"


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


In principatu commutando civium

pauperes mutant nil praeter nomen domini.

Haec parva fabella indicat id esse verum.

Senex timidus pascebat asellum in prato.

Is subito territus clamore hostium

suadebat asino fugere, ne possent capi.

At ille lentus:

"Quaeso, num putas

victorem impositurum mihi binas clitellas?"

Senex negavit.

"Ergo, quid refert mea

cui serviam,

dum portem clitellas unicas?"


Here is the poem with meter marks:


In prin~cipa~tu com~mutan~do ci~vium

nil prae~ter dom'~ni no~men mu~tant pau~peres.

Id es~se ve~rum, par~v(a h)aec fa~bel~l(a) in~dicat.

Asel~l(um) in pra~to tim'~dus pas~cebat ~ senex.

Is hos~tium ~ clamo~re sub'~to ter~ritus

suade~bat as'~no fug'~re, ne ~ possent ~ capi.

At il~le len~tus "Quae~so, num ~ binas ~ mihi

clitel~las im~pos'tu~rum vic~torem ~ putas?"

Senex ~ nega~vit. "Er~go, quid ~ refert ~ mea

cui ser~vjam, cli~tellas ~ dum por~tem u~nicas?"




When the citizens experience a change in regime, the poor people change nothing except the name of their master. This little fable shows that this is true. A fearful old man was pasturing his donkey in the meadow. All of a sudden he was terrified by the shouts of the enemy and persuaded the donkey to run away so that they would not be captured. But the donkey calmly answered: "Tell me please, do you think that the victor is going to put a double pack on my back?" The old man said no. "Therefore, what difference does it make to me whom I serve, so long as I still carry a single pack?"


[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 Sapient Ass (trans. C. Smart)

In all the changes of a state,

The poor are the most fortunate,

Who, save the name of him they call

Their king, can find no odds at all.

The truth of this you now may read-

A fearful old man in a mead,

While leading of his Ass about,

Was startled at the sudden shout

Of enemies approaching nigh.

He then advised the Ass to fly,

"Lest we be taken in the place:"

But loth at all to mend his pace,

"Pray, will the conqueror," quoth Jack,

"With double panniers load my back ?"

"No," says the man. "If that's the thing,"

Cries he, "I care not who is king."




Here is an illustration of an old man and a donkey:



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