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I.22. Mustela et Homo


Parallels: For parallel versions, see Perry 293.


Mustela ab homine prensa, cum instantem necem

effugere vellet, "Parce, quaeso", inquit "mihi,

quae tibi molestis muribus purgo domum".

Respondit ille "Faceres si causa mea,

gratum esset et dedissem veniam supplici.

Nunc quia laboras ut fruaris reliquiis,

quas sunt rosuri, simul et ipsos devores,

noli imputare vanum beneficium mihi".

Atque ita locutus improbam leto dedit.

Hoc in se dictum debent illi agnoscere,

quorum privata servit utilitas sibi,

et meritum inane iactant imprudentibus.


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


Cum mustela, prensa ab homine,

vellet effugere instantem necem,

inquit: "Quaeso: parce mihi;

ego purgo tibi domum molestis muribus."

Ille respondit:

"Si faceres mea causa,

esset gratum

et dedissem veniam supplici.

Quia nunc laboras

ut fruaris reliquiis,

quas mures sunt rosuri,

simul devores et ipsos,

noli imputare mihi vanum beneficium."

Atque locutus ita,

dedit improbam leto.

Illi debent agnoscere

hoc dictum in se:

privata utilitas servit sibi,

et iactant inane meritum imprudentibus.


Here is the poem with meter marks:


Muste~l(a) ab hom'~ne pren~sa, c(um) in~stantem ~ necem

effu~g're vel~let, "Par~ce, quae~s(o)", inquit ~ "mihi,

quae tib'~ moles~tis mur~ibus ~ purgo ~ domum".

Respon~dit il~le "Fac'~res si ~ causa ~ mea,

grat(um) es~set et ~ dedis~sem ven~jam sup~plici.

Nunc qui' ~ labo~ras ut ~ frua~ris rel'~quiis,

quas sunt ~ rosu~ri, sim'~l et ip~sos de~vores,

nol(i) im~puta~re va~num ben'~ficjum ~ mihi".

Atqu(e) it' ~ locu~tus im~probam ~ leto ~ dedit.

Hoc in ~ se dic~tum de~bent il~l(i) agno~scere,

quorum ~ priva~ta ser~vit u~til'tas ~ sibi,

et mer'~t(um) ina~ne iac~tant im~pruden~tibus.




When the weasel, caught by a man, wanted to escape her imminent demise, she said: "I beg you: spare me; I cleanse your home of annoying mice." The man replied: "If you were doing it for my sake, it would be welcome and I would grant forgiveness as you request. But the fact is that now you make these efforts so that you can enjoy the scraps of food which the mice would eat and so that at the same time you can devour the mice themselves. Don't expect any gratitude from me for your so-called favor." So he spoke, and then consigned the wicked weasel to death. These are the people who should recognize that this story is told about them: their private business works for their benefit, and they boast to gullible people about so-called favors.


[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 Man and the Weasel (trans. C. Smart)

A Weasel, by a person caught,

And willing to get off; besought

The man to spare. "Be not severe

On him that keeps your pantry clear

"This were," says he, "a work of price,

Of those intolerable mice."

If done entirely for my sake,

And good had been the plea you make:

But since, with all these pains and care,

You seize yourself the dainty fare

On which those vermin used to fall,

And then devour the mice and all,

Urge not a benefit in vain."

This said, the miscreant was slain.

The satire here those chaps will own,

Who, useful to themselves alone,

And bustling for a private end,

Would boast the merit of a friend.




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