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Appendix 31. Papilio et Vespa


Parallels: For parallel versions, see Perry 556. This fable derives from the ancient belief that wasps would spring from the carcass of a dead mule or horse, while a spirit or 'psyche' would take shape in the form of a butterfly.


Papilio vespam prope volantem viderat:

"O sortem iniquam! Dum vivebant corpora,

quorum ex reliquiis animam nos accepimus,

ego eloquens in pace, fortis proeliis,

arte omni princeps inter aequalis fui;

en cuncta levitas putris et volito cinis.

Tu, qui fuisti mulus clitellarius,

quemcumque visum est laedis infixo aculeo."

At vespa dignam memoria vocem edidit:

"Non qui fuerimus, sed qui nunc simus, vide."


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


Papilio viderat vespam volantem prope:

"O sortem iniquam! Dum vivebant corpora,

quorum ex reliquiis nos accepimus animam,

ego fui eloquens in pace, fortis proeliis,

princeps inter aequalis arte omni;

en cuncta levitas putris et volito cinis.

Tu, qui fuisti mulus clitellarius,

laedis infixo aculeo quemcumque visum est."

At vespa edidit vocem dignam memoria:

"Vide non qui fuerimus, sed qui nunc simus."


Here is the poem with meter marks:


Papil~jo ves~pam prop' ~ volan~tem vi~derat:

"O sor~t(em) ini~quam! Dum ~ vive~bant cor~pora,

quor(um) ex ~ rel'qui~is an'~mam nos ~ acce~pimus,

eg(o) e~loquens ~ in pa~ce, for~tis proe~liis,

art(e) om~ni prin~ceps in~ter ae~qualis ~ fui;

en cunc~ta lev'~tas pu~tris et ~ vol'to ~ cinis.

Tu, qui ~ fuis~ti mu~lus cli~tella~rius,

quemcum~que vi~s(um) est lae~dis in~fix(o) a~c'leo."

At ves~pa dig~nam me~morja ~ voc(em) e~didit:

"Non qui ~ fuer'~mus, sed ~ qui nunc ~ simus, ~ vide."




A butterfly had noticed a wasp flying near by. "What an unfair turn of events! When we lived as the bodies from whose mortal remains we received our souls, I was the one who was eloquent in peace and brave in battles,, first among my fellow men in every art. Yet look at me now, an utter frivolity, crumbling into ashes as I flutter about. You, who were formerly a mule, a beast of burden, now you stab and wound with your stinger whomever you want." But the wasp uttered words worth remembering: "Look not to what we were but what we are now."


[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.]




Here is an image of a butterfly:




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