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II.8. Cervus ad Bovem


Parallels: For parallel versions, see Perry 492.


Cervus nemorosis excitatus latibulis,

ut venatorum effugeret instantem necem,

caeco timore proximam villam petit,

ut opportuno se bovili condidit.

hic bos latenti "Quidnam voluisti tibi,

infelix, ultro qui ad necem cucurreris?

at ille supplex "Vos modo inquit "parcite:

occasione rursus erumpam data".

spatium diei noctis excipiunt vices;

frondem bubulcus adfert, nil adeo videt:

eunt subinde et redeunt omnes rustici,

nemo animadvertit: transit etiam vilicus,

nec ille quicquam sentit. tum gaudens ferus

bubus quietis agere coepit gratias,

hospitium adverso quod praestiterint tempore.

respondit unus "Salvum te cupimus quidem,

sed, ille qui oculos centum habet si venerit,

magno in periclo vita vertetur tua".

haec inter ipse dominus a cena redit;

et, quia corruptos viderat nuper boves,

accedit ad praesaepe: "Cur frondis parum est?

stramenta desunt. tollere haec aranea

quantum est laboris?" dum scrutatur singula,

cervi quoque alta conspicatur cornua;

quem convocata iubet occidi familia,

praedamque tollit. Haec significat fabula

dominum videre plurimum in rebus suis.


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



excitatus nemorosis latibulis,

ut effugeret instantem necem venatorum,

caeco timore

petit proximam villam,

ut condidit se opportuno bovili.

Cervo hic latenti

bos: "Quidnam voluisti tibi,


qui ultro cucurreris ad necem?"

At ille supplex inquit:

"Vos modo parcite:

occasione data

rursus erumpam."

Vices noctis excipiunt spatium diei:

bubulcus adfert frondem,

nil adeo videt;

omnes rustici

eunt subinde et redeunt,

nemo animadvertit:

etiam vilicus transit,

et ille non sentit quicquam.

tum ferus gaudens

coepit agere gratias

bubus quietis,

quod praestiterint hospitium

adverso tempore.

Unus respondit:

"Cupimus quidem te salvum,

sed si ille venerit

qui habet centum oculos,

tua vita vertetur

in magno periclo."

Inter haec

dominus ipse

redit a cena;


quia viderat

boves corruptos nuper,

accedit ad praesaepe:

"Cur parum frondis est?

Stramenta desunt.

Quantum laboris est

tollere haec aranea?"

Dum scrutatur singula,

quoque conspicatur alta cornua cervi;

familia convocata,

iubet cervum occidi,

et tollit praedam.

Haec fabula significat

dominum videre plurimum

in rebus suis.



Here is the poem with meter marks:


Cervus ~ nem'ro~sis ex~cita~tus lat'~bulis,

ut ve~nato~r(um) effug'~ret in~stantem ~ necem,

caeco ~ timo~re prox~imam ~ villam ~ petit,

ut op~portu~no se ~ bovi~li con~didit.

hic bos ~ laten~ti "Quid~nam vol~visti ~ tibi,

infe~lix, ul~tro qu(i) ad ~ necem ~ cucur~reris?

at il~le sup~plex "Vos ~ mod(o) in~quit "par~cite:

occa~sio~ne rur~sus e~rumpam ~ data".

spatjum ~ die~i noc~tis ex~cipjunt ~ vices;

frondem ~ bubul~cus ad~fert, nil ~ adeo ~ videt:

eunt ~ subin~d(e) et red~'unt om~nes rus~tici,

nem(o) an'madver~tit: trans~it et~jam vi~licus,

nec il~le quic~quam sen~tit. tum ~ gaudens ~ ferus

bubus ~ quie~tis ag'~re coe~pit gra~tias,

hospit~j(um) adver~so quod ~ praestit'~rint tem~pore.

respon~dit u~nus "Sal~vum te ~ cup'mus ~ quidem,

sed, il~le qu(i) oc'~los cen~t(um h)abet ~ si ve~nerit,

magn(o) in ~ peri~clo vi~ta ver~tetur ~ tua".

haec in~ter ip~se dom'~nus a ~ cena ~ redit;

et, quja ~ corrup~tos vi~derat ~ nuper ~ boves,

acce~dit ad ~ praesae~pe: "Cur ~ frondis ~ par(um) est?

stramen~ta de~sunt. tol~ler(e h)ae~c ara~nea

quant(um) est ~ labo~ris?" dum ~ scruta~tur sin~gula,

cervi ~ quoqu(e) al~ta con~spica~tur cor~nua;

quem con~voca~ta iu~bet occ'~di fam'~lia,

praedam~que tol~lit. Haec ~ signif'~cat fa~bula

dom'num ~ vide~re plu~rim(um) in ~ rebus ~ suis.




A stag was chased out of his forest hiding place; in order to flee impending death from the hunters, in blind fear he sought out the nearest farmhouse to hide himself in an available ox stall. An ox said to the stag as he was hiding there: "You wretch, what on earth were you thinking? Of your own free will you have run to your own death." But the stag pleaded with the oxen: "Just you spare me; when I get the chance, I will run back out again." Night's turn followed upon the daytime; a cowherd brought leafy boughs in but still saw nothing; all the farmhands came and went from there, nobody saw anything; even the bailiff passed by and he too did not see anything. Then the wild stag rejoiced and began to thank the quiet oxen for having offered him hospitality in a difficult moment. One of the oxen replied: "We indeed want you to be safe, but if the one comes who has a hundred eyes, your life will find itself again in extreme danger." Meanwhile, the master himself returned from dinner and because he had seen that the oxen had been lookly badly of late, he went to the manger: "Why is there so little foliage? There's not enough hay. How much trouble is it to clear away these spiderwebs?" While he inspected every detail, he also noticed the stag's tall horns; after the household staff were summoned, he ordered that the stag be killed and to carry off the prize. This fable shows that the master sees best when it comes to his own business.


[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 and the Oxen (trans. C. Smart)

A Stag unharbour'd by the hounds

Forth from his woodland covert bounds,

And blind with terror, at th' alarm

Of death, makes to a neighboring farm;

There snug conceals him in some straw,

Which in an ox's stall he saw.

"Wretch that thou art !" a bullock cried,

"That com'st within this place to hide;

By trusting man you are undone,

And into sure destruction run."

But he with suppliant voice replies:

" Do you but wink with both your eyes,

I soon shall my occasions shape,

To make from hence a fair escape."

The day is spent, the night succeeds,

The herdsman comes, the cattle feeds,

But nothing sees-then to and fro

Time after time the servants go;

Yet not a soul perceives the case.

The steward passes by the place,

Himself no wiser than the rest.

The joyful Stag his thanks addressed

To all the Oxen, that he there

Had found a refuge in despair.

"We wish you well," an Ox returned,

"But for your life are still concern'd,

For if old Argus come, no doubt,

His hundred eyes will find you out."

Scarce had the speaker made an end,

When from the supper of a friend

The master enters at the door,

And, seeing that the steers were poor

Of late, advances to the rack.

"Why were the fellow's hands so slack ?

Here's hardly any straw at all,

Brush down those cobwebs from the wall

Pray how much labour would it ask ?"

While thus he undertakes the task,

To dust, and rummage by degrees,

The Stag's exalted horns he sees:

Then calling all his folks around,

He lays him breathless on the ground.

The master, as the tale declares,

Looks sharpest to his own affairs.




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




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