Monday, December 11, 2006

Latin Via Proverbs 24

Note for the month of December: You can find Latin Christmas Carols, with a new one for each day, at my Latin Carols Blog. December 11: Adeste Fideles, the 18th-century Latin hymn known in English as "O Come, All Ye Faithful."

This group features third declension nouns, along with first and second declension nouns and adjectives. In addition, each saying contains some expression using the dative case.

I hope these notes will help you tackle this group of proverbs in Latin Via Proverbs. Please note: to read the proverbs in Latin, you need to acquire a copy of the book from! What I am providing here in the blog are notes to help people who are making their way through the book either in a Latin class or on their own.

Group 24

321. Envy is a companion to honor. (You can find a collection of Latin sayings about "envy" at the Bestiaria Latina blog.)

322. Wisdom is a companion to virtue. (In other words, virtue and wisdom go hand in hand. You can see an emblem illustrating this motto in Otto Vaenius's Q. Horatii Flacci Emblemata, published in 1612.)

323. Pleasure is an enemy to virtue. (The Latin adjective inimicus is literally "un-friendly," -in-amicus. You can find this saying in Cicero.)

324. Repose is hazardous to virtue. (This is something like the English saying "idle hands are the devil's workshop.")

325. Endless relaxation is nourishment for vices. (You can see an emblem illustrating this motto in Otto Vaenius's Q. Horatii Flacci Emblemata, published in 1612.)

326. Vices often border on virtues. (This is a proverb that I think is especially true: there is a fine line between virtuous and vicious behavior. Compare a similar saying from Latin Via Proverbs Group 15: Summum ius summa iniuria, "Extreme justice is extreme injustice.")

327. Too much is not good for anybody. (Literally, "for nobody is too much good." The Latin nemo, "nobody," is a contraction of ne-homo, "no-man." A fuller form of this phrase is Cur nimium adpetimus? Nemini nimium bene est, "Why do we seek too much? Too much is good for nobody." The saying is a fragment from the Roman comic playwright Afranius.)

328. It is bad for the doctor, if nobody is sick. (Literally, it is bad for the doctor if it is bad for nobody. You can find some more proverbs about doctors and medicine at the Bestiaria Latina blog.)

329. A word to the wise man is enough. (This is the origin of the English saying, "a word to the wise," although most people have forgotten the "is enough" that used to be part of this saying. The Latin dictum literally means "a thing said," from the Latin verb dicere, "to say." The idea is that the wise man does not have to learn from facts; instead, he can appreciate what he is told and act accordingly.)

330. For the donkey there is grass and the stick. (A fuller form of this saying is Asino gramen et baculus, servo panis et scutica, "For the donkey there is grass and the stick, for the slave bread and the whip." The donkey is often a metaphorical symbol of the slave or servant in Latin proverbs and fables.)

331. To a donkey a donkey is beautiful, and to a pig a pig is beautiful. (Notice that the parallel construction allows Latin to omit the repeated word: asinus asino [pulcher] et sus sui. This phrase made its way into Erasmus's Adagia, 4.10.64.)

332. There is no man who is not a beautiful son to his mother. (You can find this phrase in the Roman rhetorician Quintilian. For an Aesop's fable about mother love, you can read the story about the mother monkey who was convinced her baby monkey was the most beautiful of all the animals.)

333. Man is a wolf to man. (You can find this saying in the Roman playwright Plautus.)

334. Alas for the wretched sheep: the judge is a wolf. (Although I do not know of an Aesop's fable where the wolf is a judge, there is a great Aesop's fable about the sheep who is taken to court and accused by a dog in collusion with a wolf!)

335. Water for the living fish, and wine for the dead ones. (Yes, this is the poor fate of the fish on the dinner table. Of course, as we feast on the fish and drink our wine, it's a great pleasure for us, but not for the fish, who were much better off with water than with wine.)

336. On a long journey, even straw is a burden. (Notice the use of the dative predicate here: palea oneri est. This use of the dative is difficult to translate into English; the idea is that the straw serves as a burden, plays the role of a burden, etc. Notice also the word order in the prepositional phrase: longo in itinere, which is the same word order as in the famous Latin phrase summa cum laude.)

This blog post is part of an evolving online guide for users of the book Latin Via Proverbs.

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