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IV.21. Vulpis et Draco


Parallels: For parallel versions, see Perry 518.


Vulpes cubile fodiens dum terram eruit

agitque pluris altius cuniculos,

pervenit ad draconis speluncam ultimam,

custodiebat qui thesauros abditos.

Hunc simul aspexit: "Oro ut inprudentiae

des primum veniam; deinde si pulchre vides

quam non conveniens aurum sit vitae meae,

respondeas clementer: quem fructum capis

hoc ex labore, quodve tantum est praemium

ut careas somno et aevum in tenebris exigas?"

"Nullum" inquit ille, "verum hoc ab summo mihi

Iove adtributum est." "Ergo nec sumis tibi

nec ulli donas quidquam?" "Sic Fatis placet."

"Nolo irascaris, libere si dixero:

dis est iratis natus qui est similis tibi."


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



dum eruit terram, fodiens cubile,

et altius agit pluris cuniculos,

pervenit ad ultimam speluncam draconis,

qui custodiebat abditos thesauros.

Simul aspexit hunc, dixit:

"Primum, oro ut des veniam inprudentiae;

deinde, si pulchre vides quam aurum non sit conveniens vitae meae,

respondeas clementer:

quem fructum capis ex hoc labore,

quodve tantum praemium est

ut careas somno et exigas aevum in tenebris?"

"Nullum," draco inquit.

"Verum, hoc adtributum est mihi a summo Iove."

Vulpes inquit:

"Ergo non sumis quidquam tibi,

et non donas quidquam ulli?"

Draco inquit:

"Sic placet Fatis."

"Nolo irascaris, si dixero libere:

qui est similis tibi

natus est iratis dis."


Here is the poem with meter marks:


Vulpes ~ cubi~le fod~jens dum ~ terr(am) e~ruit

agit~que plu~ris al~tius ~ cuni~culos,

perve~nit ad ~ draco~nis spe~lunc(am) ul~timam,

custo~die~bat qui ~ thesau~ros ab~ditos.

Hunc sim'~l aspex~it: "O~r(o) ut in~pruden~tiae

des pri~mum ven~jam; dein~de si ~ pulchre ~ vides

quam non ~ conven~jens au~rum sit ~ vitae ~ meae,

respon~deas ~ clemen~ter: quem ~ fructum ~ capis

hoc ex ~ labo~re, quod~ve tan~t(um) est prae~mium

ut ca~reas ~ somn(o) 't ~ aev(um) ~ in ten'~bris ex~igas?"

"Null(um)" in~quit il~le, "ve~r(um h)oc ab ~ summo ~ mihi

Iov(e) ad~tribu~t(um) est." "Er~go nec ~ sumis ~ tibi

nec ul~li do~nas quid~quam?" "Sic ~ Fatis ~ placet."

"Nol(o) i~rasca~ris, li~bere ~ si dix~ero:

dis est ~ ira~tis na~tus qu(i) est ~ sim'lis ~ tibi."




While excavating her den, a fox dug a hole in the earth and as she made deeper and deeper tunnels in the ground, she reached the distant cave of a dragon who was guarding hidden treasure. When the fox saw the dragon, she said, 'First of all, I beg your pardon for this carelessness on my part; second, you no doubt realize how useless gold is to my way of life, so I hope that you will be so kind as to explain to me what profit you gain from this work, and what reward could be so great that you would forgo the pleasure of sleep and live out your life here in the dark?' 'I have no reward,' the dragon replied, 'but in fact this task was assigned to me by Jupiter on high.' 'Does that mean you take nothing for yourself and do not give anything to anyone?' 'So it pleases the Fates.' 'Please don't be angry then if I speak freely,' concluded the fox, 'but someone who lives like this must have been born under an unlucky star!'


[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 Fox and the Dragon (trans. C. Smart)

A Fox was throwing up the soil,

And while with his assiduous toil

He burrow'd deep into the ground,

A Dragon in his den he found,

A-watching hidden treasure there,

Whom seeing, Renard speaks him fair:

" First, for your pardon I apply

For breaking on your privacy;

Then, as you very plainly see

That gold is of no use to me,

Your gentle leave let me obtain

To ask you, what can be the gain

Of all this care, and what the fruit,

That you should not with sleep recruit

Your spirits, but your life consume

Thus in an everlasting gloom ?"

"'Tis not my profit here to stay,"

He cries; " but I must Jove obey."

"What! will you therefore nothing take

Yourself, nor others welcome make ?"

"Ev'n so the fates decree." - "Then, sir,

Have patience, whilst I do aver

That he who like affections knows

Is born with all the gods his foes.

Since to that place you needs must speed,

Where all your ancestors precede,

Why in the blindness of your heart

Do you torment your noble part ?"

All this to thee do I indite,

Thou grudging churl, thy heir's delight,

Who robb'st the gods of incense due,

Thyself of food and raiment too;

Who hear'st the harp with sullen mien,

To whom the piper gives the spleen;

Who'rt full of heavy groans and sighs

When in their price provisions rise;

Who with thy frauds heaven's patience tire

To make thy heap a little higher,

And, lest death thank thee, in thy will

Hast tax'd the undertaker's bill.




Here is an image of a dragon statue in Ljubljana; click on the image for a larger view.




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