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III.16. Cicada et Noctua


Parallels: For parallel versions, see Perry 507.


Humanitati qui se non accommodat

plerumque poenas oppetit superbiae.

Cicada acerbum noctuae convicium

faciebat, solitae victum in tenebris quaerere

cavoque ramo capere somnum interdiu.

Rogata est ut taceret. Multo validius

clamare occepit. Rursus admota prece

accensa magis est. Noctua, ut vidit sibi

nullum esse auxilium et verba contemni sua,

hac est adgressa garrulam fallacia:

"Dormire quia me non sinunt cantus tui,

sonare citharam quos putes Apollinis,

potare est animus nectar, quod Pallas mihi

nuper donavit; si non fastidis, veni;

una bibamus." Illa, quae arebat siti,

simul gaudebat vocem laudari suam,

cupide advolavit. Noctua, obsaepto cavo,

trepidantem consectata est et leto dedit.

Sic, viva quod negarat, tribuit mortua.


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


Qui non accommodat se humanitati

plerumque oppetit poenas superbiae.

Cicada faciebat acerbum convicium


solitae quaerere victum in tenebris

et interdiu capere somnum cavo ramo.

Cicada rogata est

ut taceret.

Occepit clamare multo validius.

Rursus admota prece

magis accensa est.


ut vidit

nullum esse auxilium sibi

et verba sua contemni,

adgressa est garrulam hac fallacia:

"Quia tui cantus non sinunt me dormire:


Apollinis citharam sonare hos cantus,

animus est

potare nectar,

quod Pallas nuper donavit mihi;

si non fastidis, veni;

una bibamus."


quae arebat siti,

simul gaudebat

suam vocem laudari,

cupide advolavit.


obsepto cavo,

consectata est cicadam trepidantem

et leto dedit.

Sic cicada,

quod viva negarat,

mortua tribuit.



Here is the poem with meter marks:


Huma~nita~ti qui ~ se non ~ accom~modat

plerum~que poe~nas op~petit ~ super~biae.

Cica~d(a) acer~bum noc~tuae ~ convi~cium

facje~bat, sol'~tae vic~t(um) in t'ne~bris quae~rere

cavo~que ra~mo cap'~re som~n(um) inter~diu.

Roga~t(a) est ut ~ tace~ret. Mul~to val'~dius

clama~r(e) occe~pit. Rur~sus ad~mota ~ prece

accen~sa ma~gis est. ~ Noctv(a), ut ~ vidit ~ sibi

null(um) es~s(e) auxil~j(um) et ver~ba con~temni ~ sua,

hac est ~ adgres~sa gar~rulam ~ falla~cia:

"Dormi~re qui' ~ me non ~ sinunt ~ cantus ~ tui,

sona~re cith'~ram quos ~ putes ~ Apol~linis,

pota~r(e) est an'~mus nec~tar, quod ~ Pallas ~ mihi

nuper ~ dona~vit; si ~ non fas~tidis, ~ veni;

una ~ biba~mus." Il~la, qu(ae) a~rebat ~ siti,

simul ~ gaude~bat vo~cem lau~dari ~ suam,

cupi~d(e) advo~lavit. ~ Noct~v(a), ob~septo ~ cavo,

trep'dan~tem con~secta~t(a) est et ~ leto ~ dedit.

Sic, vi~va quod ~ nega~rat, trib~vit mor~tua.




Someone who cannot deal with people usually pays the price for his conceited behaviour. A cricket was making an awful disturbance for the owl who was accustomed to seek her food in the dark and meanwhile to catch some shut-eye in a hollowed-out tree branch. The cricket was asked to keep quiet. She began to shout even more loudly. Again the request was made, and the cricket got even more excited. When the owl saw that this was doing her no good and that her words were being ignored, she approached the chattering cricket with this trick: "Given that your songs do not let me sleep - songs which you would think Apollo's own lyre were producing - I've got a mind to drink the nectar which Athena recently gave me as a gift. If you don't object, please come; let's have a drink together." The cricket, who was parched with thirst, was at the same time pleased to have her voice praised; she greedily flew to the owl. The owl, having blocked up the hole, seized the trembling cricket and consigned her to death. What the cricket had refused to do while living, she conceded in death.


[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 Owl and the Grasshopper (trans. C. Smart)

Those who will not the forms obey

To be obliging in their way,

Must often punishment abide

For their ill-nature, and their pride.

A Grasshopper, in rank ill-will,

Was very loud and very shrill

Against a sapient Owl's repose,

Who was compelled by day to doze

Within a hollow oak's retreat,

As wont by night to quest for meat--

She is desired to hold her peace.

But at the word her cries increase;

Again requested to abate

Her noise, she's more importunate.

The Owl perceiving no redress,

And that her words were less and less

Accounted of, no longer pray'd,

But thus an artifice essay'd:

" Since 'tis impossible to nod,

While harping like the Delphian god,

You charm our ears, stead of a nap,

A batch of nectar will I tap,

Which lately from Minerva came;

Now if you do not scorn the same,

Together let us bumpers ply."

The Grasshopper, extremely dry,

And, finding she had hit the key

That gain'd applause, approach'd with glee;

At which the Owl upon her flew,

And quick the trembling vixen slew.

Thus by her death she was adjudged

To give what in her life she grudged.




Here is an image of an owl from a medieval manuscript; click on the image for a larger view.




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