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IV.20. Serpens Nociva


Parallels: For parallel versions, see Perry 176.


Qui fert malis auxilium, post tempus dolet.

Gelu rigentem quidam colubram sustulit

sinuque fovit, contra se ipse misericors;

namque, ut refecta est, necuit hominem protinus.

Hanc alia cum rogaret causam facinoris,

respondit: "Ne quis discat prodesse improbis."


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


Qui fert auxilium malis, post tempus dolet.

Quidam sustulit colubram rigentem gelu

et fovit sinu, ipse misericors contra se;

namque protinus, ut refecta est, necuit hominem.

Cum alia rogaret hanc causam facinoris,

respondit: "Ne quis discat prodesse improbis."


Here is the poem with meter marks:


Qui fert ~ malis ~ auxil~jum, post ~ tempus ~ dolet.

Gelu ~ rigen~tem qui~dam c'lu~bram sus~tulit

sinu~que fo~vit, con~tra s(e) ip~se mis'~ricors;

namqu(e), ut ~ refec~t(a) est, nec~vit hom'~nem pro~tinus.

Hanc al~ja cum ~ rogar~et cau~sam fac'~noris,

respon~dit: "Ne ~ quis dis~cat pro~dess(e) im~probis."




The person who helps wicked people suffers afterwards. A man had picked up a serpent that was stiff with cold and warmed her in his bosom, showing mercy on the snake to his own cost; for as soon as she was warmed up, she killed the man. When another asked the reason for this crime, she answered: "So that no one might learn to do good to criminals."


[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 Adder (trans. C. Smart)

He, that malicious men relieves,

His folly in a season grieves.

A Man, against himself humane,

Took up an Adder, that had lain

And stiffen'd in the frosty air,

And in his bosom placed with care,

Where she with speed recovering breath,

Her benefactor stung to death.

Another Adder near the place,

On asking why she was so base,

Was told, " 'Tis others to dissuade

From giving wickedness their aid."




Here is an illustration from an early printed edition; click on the image for a larger view (note that in this illustration, it looks like the man has a fighting chance against that snake!).




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