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IV.1. Asinus et Galli


Parallels: For parallel versions, see Perry 164.


Qui natus est infelix, non vitam modo

tristem decurrit, verum post obitum quoque

persequitur illum dura fati miseria.

Galli Cybebes circum in quaestus ducere

asinum solebant, baiulantem sarcinas.

Is cum labore et plagis esset mortuus,

detracta pelle sibi fecerunt tympana.

Rogati mox a quodam, delicio suo

quidnam fecissent, hoc locuti sunt modo:

"Putabat se post mortem securum fore:

ecce aliae plagae congeruntur mortuo!"


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


Qui infelix natus est,

non modo decurrit tristem vitam, verum post obitum quoque

dura miseria fati persequitur illum.

Galli Cybebes solebant

circum ducere in questus asinum,

baiulantem sarcinas.

Cum is mortuus esset labore et plagis,

detracta pelle

Gallis sibi fecerunt tympana.

Mox rogati a quodam,

quidnam fecissent delicio suo,

locuti sunt hoc modo:


se fore securum post mortem;

ecce: aliae plagae congeruntur mortuo!"


Here is the poem with meter marks:


Qui na~tus est ~ infe~lix, non ~ vitam ~ modo

tristem ~ decur~rit, ve~rum post ~ ob'tum ~ quoque

perseq'~tur il~lum du~ra fa~ti mis'~ria.

Galli ~ Cybe~bes cir~c(um) in ques~tus du~cere

as'num ~ sole~bant, bai~ulan~tem sar~cinas.

Is cum ~ labo~r(e) et pla~gis es~set mor~tuus,

detrac~ta pel~le sib' ~ fece~runt tym~pana.

Roga~ti mox ~ a quo~dam, de~licjo ~ suo

quidnam ~ fecis~sent, hoc ~ locu~ti sunt ~ modo:

"Puta~bat se ~ post mor~tem se~curum ~ fore:

ecc(e) al~jae pla~gae con~gerun~tur mor~tuo!"




It is not enough that a man who is born under an unlucky star leads an unhappy life: the bitter affliction of his fate pursues him even after he is dead. The Galli, priests of the goddess Cybebe, used a donkey to carry their luggage around when they went around begging for alms. When their donkey finally died, overcome by work and the whip, they stripped his hide and made themselves some tambourines. When someone asked them what they had done with their darling donkey, the priests replied as follows, 'He thought that once he died he would get some rest, but in death the beatings keep getting added on!"


[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 Ass and Priests of Cybele (trans. C. Smart)

The luckless wretch that's born to woe

Must all his life affliction know-

And harder still, his cruel fate

Will on his very ashes wait,

Cybele's priests, in quest of bread,

An Ass about the village led,

With things for sale from door to door;

Till work'd and beaten more and more,

At length, when the poor creature died,

They made them drums out of his hide.

Then question'd "how it came to pass

They thus could serve ther darling Ass ?"

The answer was, " He thought of peace

In death, and that his toils would cease;

But see his mis'ry knows no bounds,

Still with our blows his back resounds."




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




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