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V.3. Calvus et Musca


Parallels: For parallel versions, see Perry 525.


Calui momordit musca nudatum caput,
quam opprimere captans alapam sibi duxit grauem.
Tunc illa inridens: "Punctum uolucris paruulae
uoluisti morte ulcisci; quid facies tibi,
iniuriae qui addideris contumeliam?"
Respondit: "Mecum facile redeo in gratiam,
quia non fuisse mentem laedendi scio.
Sed te, contempti generis animal improbum,
quae delectaris bibere humanum sanguinem,
optem carere uel maiore incommodo."
Hoc argumento uenia donari decet
qui casu peccat. Nam qui consilio est nocens,
illum esse quauis dignum poena iudico.


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


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Here is the poem with meter marks:


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A bald man was bitten on the head by a fly and when he tried to swat the fly he gave himself a serious slap on the head. Then the fly laughed at the man and said, 'You wanted to avenge the sting of a tiny little insect by committing murder: what are you going to do to yourself now that you have added insult to your injury?' The man replied, 'I can easily forgive myself since I know that I did not try to hurt myself on purpose. As for you, you worthless creature, spawn of a loathsome race of insects who delight in drinking human blood, I would be glad to get rid of you even if it required an even greater inconvenience to myself!'

This shows that a person who commits an accidental crime should be pardoned, while the person who injures someone else on purpose should, in my opinion, be punished as fully as possible.


The Bald Man and the Fly (trans. C. Smart)

As on his head she chanced to sit,

A Man's bald pate a Gadfly bit;

He, prompt to crush the little foe,

Dealt on himself a grievous blow:

At which the Fly, deriding said,

" You that would strike an insect dead

For one slight sting, in wrath so strict,

What punishment will you inflict

Upon yourself, who was so blunt

To do yourself this gross affront ?"-

"0," says the party, "as for me,

I with myself can soon agree.

The spirit of th' intention's all;

But thou, detested cannibal!

Blood-sucker! to have thee secured

More would I gladly have endured."

What by this moral tale is meant

Is-those who wrong not with intent

Are venial; but to those that do

Severity, I think, is due.




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