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IV.2. Mustela et Mures


Parallels: For parallel versions, see Perry 511.


Mustela, cum annis et senecta debilis

mures veloces non valeret adsequi,

involvit se farina et obscuro loco

abiecit neclegenter. Mus, escam putans,

adsiluit et comprensus occubuit neci;

alter similiter, deinde perit et tertius.

post aliquot venit saeculis retorridus,

qui saepe laqueos et muscipula effugerat;

proculque insidias cernens hostis callidi,

"Sic valeas," inquit, "ut farina es, quae iaces!"


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



cum debilis annis et senecta

non valeret adsequi veloces mures,

involvit se farina

et abiecit neclegenter obscuro loco.

Mus, putans mustelam esse escam,


et comprensus occubuit neci;

alter similiter,

deinde et tertius perit.

post aliquot

mus venit, retorridus saeculis,

qui saepe effugerat laqueos et muscipula;

et procul cernens insidias callidi hostis,


"Tu quae iaces: sic valeas ut farina es!"


Here is the poem with meter marks:


Muste~la, c(um) an~nis et ~ senec~ta de~bilis

mures ~ velo~ces non ~ vale~ret ad~sequi,

invol~vit se ~ fari~n(a) et ob~scuro ~ loco

abie~cit nec~legen~ter. Mus, ~ escam ~ putans,

adsil~vit et ~ compren~sus oc~cubvit ~ neci;

alter ~ simil'~ter, dein~de per'~t et ter~tius.

post al'~quot ve~nit sae~culis ~ retor~ridus,

qui sae~pe laqu'~os et ~ muscip'~l(a) effug~erat;

procul~qu(e) insid~jas cer~nens hos~tis cal~lidi,

"Sic val'~as," in~quit, "ut ~ fari~n(a) es, quae ~ iaces!"




A weasel, enfeebled by age and senility, was no longer able to pursue the swift mice, so she decided to roll in the flour and lie down nonchalantly in a dark corner. One of the mice thought that she must be food and pounced, and he was caught and consigned to death; another mouse did the same, and then a third mouse also perished. A few mice later, another mouse arrived: his skin was wrinkled with extreme old age and he had escaped many a time from snares and traps. Already at a distance he recognized the ambush of their cunning enemy. He said: "You there, lying in the corner! I wish you well if, and only if, you really are made of flour!"


[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.]


Mustela et Mus (trans. C. Smart)

To you, who 've graver things bespoke,

This seems no better than a joke,

And light for mere amusement made;

Yet still we drive the scribbling trade,

And from the pen our pleasure find,

When we've no greater things to mind.

Yet if you look with care intense,

These tales your toil shall recompense;

Appearance is not always true,

And thousands err by such a view.

'Tis a choice spirit that has pried

Where clean contrivance chose to hide;

That this is not at random said,

I shall produce upon this head

A fable of an arch device,

About the Weasel and the Mice.

A Weasel, worn with years, and lame,

That could not overtake its game,

Now with the nimble Mice to deal,

Disguised herself with barley meal;

Then negligent her limbs she spread

In a sly nook, and lay for dead.

A Mouse that thought she there might feed,

Leapt up, and perish'd in the deed;

A second in like manner died;

A third, and sundry more beside:

Then comes the brindled Mouse, a chap

That oft escaped both snare and trap,

And seeing how the trick was played,

Thus to his crafty foe he said:-

"So may'st thou prosper day and night,

As thou art not an errant bite."




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




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