Sunday, February 18, 2007

Latin Via Proverbs 29

I hope these notes will help you tackle this group of proverbs in Latin Via Proverbs. This group features third declension nouns, along with first and second declension nouns and adjectives. As with the last group of proverbs, each saying here contains a prepositional phrase with in, plus the ablative case.

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 29

387. Dog in the manger. (This is a proverb derived from the famous fable which later became part of the Aesopic tradition about the dog who sat in the manger and, even though he did eat hay himself, prevented the cattle from being able to feed. You will find links to Latin and English versions of this fable at the website.)

388. Snake in the grass. (A fuller form of this saying including a verb would be latet anguis in herba, a snake is hiding in the grass, i.e., you are facing a lurking danger, something which cannot be immediately seen, but which is potentially fatal nonetheless. You can see this motto used in one of Whitney's emblems.)

389. A monkey in the skin of a lion. (There is a famous Aesop's fable about the donkey in the skin of a lion, and this saying expresses the same idea: a foolish monkey has donned the apparel of a mighty beast that is hardly appropriate to his station or powers. You can also find a similar saying, Simia in purpura, "a monkey on royal robes.")

390. As sheep in the midst of wolves. (This is a saying from the Bible, when Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 10: Ecce ego mitto vos sicut oves in medio luporum estote ergo prudentes sicut serpentes et simplices sicut columbae, "Behold, I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves; be therefore as wise as serpents and as simple as doves.")

391. A golden ring in the nostrils of a pig. (Be careful with suis. This is the genitive singular of sus, "sow, pig." It is not the reflexive possessive pronouns, suus. This saying made its way into Erasmus Adagia, 1.7.24. As Erasmus explains, "This is used when something which is on its own account exceedingly wonderful is put somewhere that least suits it." He goes on to explain that it was customary to put some kind of metal ring in the nose of a pig in order to keep it from being able to do as much damage by rooting in the ground. What is inappropriate here, of course, is that it is a ring made of gold!)

392. Horse in the racing chariot, in the plow an ox. (This is another proverb about right things being in the right place. You would not want to use your racing horse to plow the field, and you would not yoke an ox to a four-horse team pulling a racing chariot. Imagine Ben Hur trying to race his chariot with three horses and an ox!)

393. In peace, lions; in time of war, deer. (The deer was a proverbially timid and cowardly animal. So when there is no danger, people might boast as big as lions, but when the battle arrives, they are cowards at heart, like the deer, ready to take flight rather than fight.)

394. In the governor's palace, lions; in the battlefield camp, rabbits. (This expressed much the same idea as the preceding proverb. When they are back at home planning the war in safety, they are brave as lions, but when they go out into the field to do battle they become as timid as rabbits.)

395. A precipice in front, and from behind - wolves! (In other words, between the devil and the deep blue sea!)

396. There is no smoke without fire. (In other words, as we say in English: where there is smoke, there's fire.)

397. Now your iron is in the fire. (This is the moment of opportunity, because the iron can only be worked in the red heat of the flame. The English proverb then urges: strike while the iron is hot! )

398. From sea all the way to the sea. (This saying is the motto of Canada!)

399. Far from Jupiter, far from the thunderbolt. (A variant form is found in Erasmus's Adagia, 1.3.96, who explains: "This advises us not to get involved with people who are extremely powerful, who can with a mere nod destroy us whenever it pleases them.")

400. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth. (This infamous principle of Biblical justice is expressed in Exodus 21, among other Bible passages: Oculum pro oculo dentem pro dente manum pro manu pedem pro pede; adustionem pro adustione vulnus pro vulnere livorem pro livore, "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot; burning for burning, wound for wound, blow for blow.")

401. On a journey a talkative companion is as good as a ride. (I really like this saying! It suggests that if you are walking a long way, having someone to talk with as you make the journey by foot is even better than the speedy journey by vehicle made in silence. I always think about this saying when I ride in an airplane. It used to be that people in airplanes regularly introduced themselves to their traveling companions, but silence has become more and more the norm, so that we manage to journey at hundreds of miles an hour, but without anyone to talk to, if you are traveling alone.)

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