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IV.25. Formica et Musca


Parallels: For parallel versions, see Perry 521.


Formica et musca contendebant acriter,

quae pluris esset. Musca sic coepit prior:

"Conferre nostris tu potes te laudibus?

Moror inter aras, templa perlustro deum;

ubi immolatur, exta praegusto omnia;

in capite regis sedeo cum visum est mihi,

et matronarum casta delibo oscula;

laboro nihil atque optimis rebus fruor.

Quid horum simile tibi contingit, rustica?"

"Est gloriosus sane convictus deum,

sed illi qui invitatur, non qui invisus est.

Aras frequentas? Nempe abigeris quom venis.

Reges commemoras et matronarum oscula?

Super etiam iactas tegere quod debet pudor.

Nihil laboras? Ideo, cum opus est, nihil habes.

Ego grana in hiemem cum studiose congero,

te circa murum pasci video stercore;

mori contractam cum te cogunt frigora,

me copiosa recipit incolumem domus.

aestate me lacessis; cum bruma est siles.

Satis profecto rettudi superbiam."

Fabella talis hominum discernit notas,

eorum qui se falsis ornant laudibus,

et quorum virtus exhibet solidum decus.


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


Formica et musca contendebant acriter,

quae esset pluris.

Musca sic coepit prior:

"Tu potes conferre te nostris laudibus?

Moror inter aras, perlustro templa deum;

ubi immolatur, praegusto omnia exta;

sedeo in capite regis cum visum est mihi,

et delibo casta oscula matronarum;

laboro nihil atque fruor optimis rebus.

Quid simile horum contingit tibi, rustica?"

"Sane, convictus deum est gloriosus,

sed illi qui invitatur, non illi qui invisus est.

Frequentas aras? Nempe abigeris cum venis.

Commemoras reges et oscula matronarum?

Iactas etiam super quod pudor debet tegere.

Laboras nihil? Ideo, cum opus est, habes nihil.

Ego, cum studiose congero grana in hiemem,

video te pasci stercore circa murum;

cum frigora cogunt te contractam mori,

copiosa domus recipit me incolumem.

lacessis me aestate; siles, cum bruma est.

Profecto satis rettudi superbiam."

Fabella talis discernit notas hominum,

qui eorum ornant se falsis laudibus,

et quorum virtus exhibet solidum decus.


Here is the poem with meter marks:


Formi~c(a) et mus~ca con~tende~bant ac~riter,

quae plu~ris es~set. Mus~ca sic ~ coepit ~ prior:

"Confer~re nos~tris tu ~ potes ~ te lau~dibus?

Moror ~ int'r a~ras, tem~pla per~lustro ~ deum;

ub(i) im~mola~tur, ex~ta prae~gust(o) om~nia;

in cap'~te re~gis se~d'o cum ~ vis(um) est ~ mihi,

et ma~trona~rum cas~ta de~lib(o) os~cula;

labo~ro ni(h)il ~ atqu(e) op~timis ~ rebus ~ fruor.

Quid ho~rum sim'~le tib' ~ contin~git, rus~tica?"

"Est glo~rio~sus sa~ne con~victus ~ deum,

sed il~li qu(i) in~vita~tur, non ~ qu(i) invi~sus est.

Aras ~ frequen~tas? Nem~p(e) abig'~ris quom ~ venis.

Reges ~ commem'~ras et ~ matro~nar(um) os~cula?

Sup'r et~jam iac~tas teg'~re quod ~ debet ~ pudor.

Ni(h)il la~boras? ~ Ideo, ~ c(um) opus 'st, ~ nihil ~ habes.

Eg' gran~(a) in hje~mem cum ~ studjo~se con~gero,

te cir~ca mu~rum pas~ci vi~deo ster~core;

mori ~ contrac~tam cum ~ te co~gunt fri~gora,

me co~pio~sa rec'~pit inc'~lumem ~ domus.

aesta~te me ~ laces~sis; cum ~ brum(a) est ~ siles.

Satis ~ profec~to ret~tudi ~ super~biam."

Fabel~la ta~lis hom'~num dis~cernit ~ notas,

eo~rum qui ~ se fal~sis or~nant lau~dibus,

et quo~rum vir~tus ex~hibet ~ sol'dum ~ decus.




The ant and the fly were bitterly arguing about who was more important. The fly presented her case first. 'Do you really mean to compare yourself to my exalted status? I pass my time among the altars, I wander through the temples of the gods; whenever there is a sacrifice, I am the first to taste all the entrails; I can sit on the head of the king if I want and I enjoy the forbidden kisses of the married women; I do not work and yet I reap the very best of all the spoils. What has life given you that can compare with all that I have, you country bumpkin!' The ant replied, 'It is truly a wonderful thing to dine at the gods' table, but only for someone whom the gods have invited, not for someone whom they hate. You say that you frequent their altars? Agreed, but you are driven away as soon as you arrive. As for the kings you mention and the women's kisses, you are even boasting about something that it is shameful to mention. You work at nothing? As a result you have nothing when you are in need. But when I am busily gathering a store of grain for the winter, I see you feeding on manure piled up along the walls. When the cold winds make you shrivel up and die, my well-stocked home keeps me safe. Now that it is summer you try to provoke me, but in winter you have nothing to say. There: I have said enough to blunt your pride.' This sort of fable shows how to recognize those people who extol themselves for empty deeds and those whose noble qualities are marked by solid accomplishments.


[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 Ant and the Fly (trans. C. Smart)

An Ant and Fly had sharp dispute

Which creature was of most repute;

When thus began the flaunting Fly:

"Are you so laudible as I ?

I, ere the sacrifice is carved,

Precede the gods; first come, first served--

Before the altar take my place,

And in all temples show my face,

Whene'er I please I set me down

Upon the head that wears a crown.

I with impunity can taste

The kiss of matrons fair and chaste,

And pleasure without labor claim-

Say, trollop, canst thou do the same ?"

"The feasts of gods are glorious fare,

No doubt, to those who're welcome there;

But not for such detested things.-

You talk of matron's lips and kings;

I, who with wakeful care and pains

Against the winter hoard my grains,

Thee feeding upon ordure view.-

The altars you frequent, 'tis true;

But still are driv'n away from thence,

And elsewhere, as of much offence.

A life of toil you will not lead,

And so have nothing when you need.

Besides all this, you talk with pride

Of things that modesty should hide.

You plague me here, while days increase,

But when the winter comes you cease.

Me, when the cold thy life bereaves,

A plenteous magazine receives.

I think I need no more advance

To cure you of your arrogance."

The tenor of this tale infers

Two very diff'rent characters;

Of men self-praised and falsely vain,

And men of real worth in grain.




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




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