On Troublemakers: Two Translations from Phaedrus, by Terry L. Norton The Society September 24, 2020 Children's, Culture, Essays, Poetry, Translation 9 Comments On Troublemakers: Two Translations* from the Latin Poet Phaedrus, Freedman of Augustus (first century A.D.) Translator’s Prologue These little tales from ancient Rome Concern those who would foment strife. See how the first from her scheme gains But how the second forfeits life. The Eagle, the Cat, and the Wild Sow __Upon a lofty oak at varied heights, Three creatures had established their homesites. The highest limbs an eagle had possessed To build within their forks her bowl-shaped nest. Inside a hollow on the trunk midway, A cat with kittens found a place to stay. And by the roots, among the dry leaf litter, Her young a forest sow did just deliver. __The cat, though, full of malice and deceit, Thought she’d the peaceful status quo unseat. So, to the eagle’s nest, she climbed on high And said, “Too bad for you your end is nigh, And I poor soul, as well face ruination. That devious sow roots up our home’s foundation And basely works to bring the aged oak down That she may kill our young upon the ground.” On hearing thus the sow’s foul plot conveyed, The mother bird in mad confusion strayed. Indeed, her apprehensions turned her mood To haunt her thoughts how she might save her brood. __The cat then dropped down to the sow’s low lair To say “For your dear tender ones take care. For once you leave to forage, I must warn, The eagle plans to murder your newborn.” __On having now the bristly sow alarmed, The cat departed to her hole unharmed. From there at night, she wandered with soft tread, The sow and eagle ever home in dread. Then she and her offspring consumed their fill, But on return, they quaked with terror’s chill. For through the day, she feigned a watchful eye On her fictitious foes below and high— The eagle resting on her airy perch, Afraid the oak at any time might lurch; The wood sow trembling in her gloomy lair, Anguished the eagle would her piglets snare. __Yet why elaborate with more events? The sow and eagle perished not long hence. For never exiting their oak abodes, Their high and low arboreal antipodes, From hunger, they and their small babies died. The scheming cat, though, with her young survived. For on the flesh of her deluded beasts, For weeks the felines dined on ample feasts. The two-faced double-tongued sometimes create For those deceived a sad and ghastly fate. Aquila, Feles, et Aper __Aquila in sublimi quercu nidum fecerat; feles cavernam nancta in media pepererat; sus nemoris cultrix fetum ad imam posuerat. Tum fortuitum feles contubernium fraude et scelesta sic evertit malitia. Ad nidum scandit volucris: “Pernicies” ait “tibi paratur, forsan et miserae mihi. Nam fodere terram quod vides cotidie aprum insidiosum, quercum vult evertere, ut nostram in plano facile progeniem opprimat.” Terrore offuso et perturbatis sensibus, derepit ad cubile saetosae suis; “Magno,” inquit “in periclo sunt nati tui. Nam simul exieris pastum cum tenero grege, aquila est parata rapere porcellos tibi.” Hunc quoque timore postquam complevit locum, dolosa tuto condidit sese cavo. Inde evagata noctu suspenso pede, ubi esca se replevit et prolem suam, pavorem simulans prospicit toto die. Ruinam metuens aquila ramis desidet; aper rapinam vitans non prodit foras. Quid multa? Inedia sunt consumpti cum suis, felique catulis largam praebuerunt dapem. Quantum homo bilinquis saepe concinnet mali, documentum habere hinc stulta credulitas potest. From The Aesopic Fables of Phaedrus, Book II, Fable 4 The Cicada and the Little Owl To those who only think of their own need, Consider what this bug had to concede. __A loud cicada, buzzing with great zest, So stressed a little owl she could not rest. For in the night, she foraged for her food, But in the day, she got what sleep she could. So, from her hollow tree, she hooted to request The bombinating bug his din arrest. Her plea but made the insect clamor more Than he had droned and thrummed the day before. Again, the owl submitted her genteel appeal. The pest, though, dared to buzz with greater zeal. __On seeing how the insect paid no mind, The bird a clever stratagem designed. She called, “From Phoebus’ lyre, your gay tunes leap And by their beauty interrupt my sleep. So, since I’m now awake, I have a mind to sip Some nectar Pallas gave me as a gift. I hope an invitation you’ll not think Beneath your dignity to share a drink.” __Delighted that the owl his voice thus praised, As well as by keen thirst for nectar crazed, The flattered, parched cicada flew to meet The bird and to imbibe the proffered sweet. The insect dived within the hollow tree. The owl then blocked her hole so he’d not flee And caught the scared cicada in her beak, Arranging life so he’d no longer speak. And thus the dead bug granted the request To what the living never acquiesced. Cicada et Noctua Humanitati qui se non accommodat plerumque poenas oppetit superbiae. Cicada acerbum noctuae convicium faciebat, solitae victum in tenebris quaerere cavoque ramo capere somnum interdiu. Rogata est ut taceret. Multo validius clamare occepit. Rursus admota prece accensa magis est. Noctua, ut vidit sibi nullum esse auxilium et verba contemni sua, hac est adgressa garrulam fallacia: “Dormire quia me non sinunt cantus tui, sonare citharam quos putes Apollinis, potare est animus nectar, quod Pallas mihi nuper donavit: si non fastidis, veni; una bibamus.” Illa, quae arebat siti, simul gaudebat vocem laudari suam, cupide advolavit. Noctua, obsepto cavo, trepidantem consectata est et leto dedit. Sic, viva quod negarat, tribuit mortua. From The Aesopic Fables of Phaedrus, Book III, Fable 16 Note on Translation: British and French writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries offered decidedly cogent and practical advice on translating authors from the ancient, medieval, and renaissance periods. Because such literary giants as John Dryden and Jean de La Fontaine prized meter and rhyme, the guidelines they espoused provide invaluable suggestions to any translator who would render works from a foreign tongue into formal English verse. Along with La Fontaine’s preface to his fables, which were works taken chiefly from the Aesopic tradition, including the Latin Phaedrus, anyone interested in such ideas on translation also may want to consult Dryden’s “Preface to Ovid’s Epistles,” “Dedication of the Aeneis,” and “Preface to The Fables, Ancient and Modern.” The last essay includes Dryden’s discussion of not only his poetic translations from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales but also his verse renditions of three of Boccaccio’s prose tales from Decameron. In their critical commentaries, both Dryden and La Fontaine justified expansions (embellishments) of an original work or deletions from it, with neither writer adhering to exactitude in translation as long as the sense of the original was maintained. In his “Preface to Ovid’s Epistles,” Dryden went so far as to say that exact translation was “servile” and “much like dancing on ropes with fettered legs; a man can shun a fall by using caution, but the gracefulness of motion is not to be expected.” For an excellent summary of the era’s theoretical conceptions on translation, see Essay on the Principles of Translation (1790) by Scotsman Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee. Originally presented to The Royal Society of London, this work may be accessed at Internet Archive. The critical pieces by Dryden, may be found in the two-volume set Essays of John Dryden, also at Internet Archive. La Fontaine’s preface is available at Project Gutenberg in Walter Thornbury’s translation of The Fables of La Fontaine. Although not the sole font of my approach, these sources form an essential component of my perspective on translation. They are certainly more pragmatic than contemporary notions which I find are often muddled, labored, precious, and pretentious. Terry L. Norton is professor emeritus of literacy acquisition at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He is the author of Cherokee Myths and Legends: Thirty Tales Retold as well as academic books and articles on literacy and literature for children and young adults. His poetry has appeared in Ekphrastic Review, Kakalak Review, and The Society for Classical Poetry. His renditions of the first century Latin poet Phaedrus received second place in the 2020 translation competition sponsored by The Society. NOTE: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to email@example.com. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 9 Responses Joe Tessitore September 24, 2020 These are wonderful translations and the texts are as timely as the day they were written. Reply Terry L. Norton September 24, 2020 Thank you, Joe. I have enjoyed working with these lesser known classical tales and discovering their universal wisdom. Reply Susan Jarvis Bryant September 24, 2020 Terry, I am becoming a huge fan of your work, and simply adore, “The Eagle, the Cat, and the Wild Sow”. The language flows steadily, playfully and beautifully, and is wonderful read aloud. Although aimed at children, what a lesson in gaslighting and triangulation for any budding psychologist. LOL Thank you for my morning’s entertainment. Bravo, Mr. Norton! Reply Terry L. Norton September 24, 2020 Thank you, Susan. Coming from one whose work is as accomplished as yours, your praise is much appreciated. Reply Jeff Eardley September 24, 2020 Terry, not being a lover of Cats, I now know why, and Owls, for me, now have a dark side I never suspected. The Owl and the Pussycat, now where have I heard that before? Lovely verses and most enjoyable. Many thanks. Reply Terry L. Norton September 24, 2020 Glad you enjoyed the two pieces, Jeff. I have found that in these classical fables, cats are usually portrayed as cunning and up to no good. Owls – I’m thinking of fables from India – are depicted more positively. Reply C.B. Anderson September 24, 2020 Terry, I would never think of doubting your expertise in classical literature, but some of your English renditions leave much to be desired. On a second reading, I find the translation delightful, but for a couple of things. In the stanza before the final couplet, you attempt to rhyme “abodes” with “antipodes.” By the time I was in the sixth grade I already knew that “antipodes” was pronounced ann-TIP-oh-DEEZ. Was this supposed to be a sight-rhyme, or just a joke? In the second poem, the last two lines of the second stanza make no sense, and neither do the first two lines of the last stanza. I defy anyone to rationalize the syntax in these two passages. Reply William White September 24, 2020 Enjoyed these translations, Terry! These lessons from the past never lose their currency! You make them particularly enjoyable (using antipodes, as you aimed to please, with tales of abodes in trees.) Reply David Watt September 27, 2020 Terry, your translations are highly entertaining. “The Eagle, the Cat, and the Wild Sow” is my favorite of the two. As a resident of the antipodes, I agree with C.B. that the rhyme pairing with abodes was the sole distraction in a damn good read. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.