<< Home Page | Phaedrus Index

Aesop's Fables: Phaedrus

Book IV - XI. Fur et Lucerna (Perry 513)

Lucernam fur accendit ex ara Iouis
ipsumque compilauit ad lumen suum.
Onustus qui sacrilegio cum discederet,
repente uocem sancta misit Religio:
"Malorum quamuis ista fuerint munera
mihique inuisa, ut non offendar subripi,
tamen, sceleste, spiritu culpam lues,
olim cum adscriptus uenerit poenae dies.
Sed ne ignis noster facinori praeluceat,
per quem uerendos excolit pietas deos,
ueto esse tale luminis commercium."
Itaque hodie nec lucernam de flamma deum
nec de lucerna fas est accendi sacrum.
Quot res contineat hoc argumentum utiles
non explicabit alius quam qui repperit.
Significat primum saepe quos ipse alueris
tibi inueniri maxime contrarios;
secundum ostendit scelera non ira deum,
Fatorum dicto sed puniri tempore;
nouissime interdicit ne cum melefico
usum bonus consociet ullius rei.

The Sacrilegious Thief (trans. C. Smart)

A villain to Jove's altar came
To light his candle in the flame,
And robb'd the god in dead of night,
By his own consecrated light:
Then thus an awful voice was sent,
As with the sacrilege he went:
"Though all this gold and silver plate
As gifts of evil men I hate;
And their removal from the fane
Can cause the Deity no pain;
Yet, caitiff, at th' appointed time
Thy life shall answer for thy crime.
But, for the future, lest this blaLe,
At which the pious pray and praise,
Should guide the wicked, I decree
That no such intercourse there be."
Hence to this day all men decline
To light their candle at the shrine;
Nor from a candle e'er presume
The holy light to re-illume.
How many things are here contained,
By him alone can be explain'd
Who could this useful tale invent.
In the first place, herein is meant,
That they are often most your foes
Who from your fost'ring hand arose.
Next, that the harden'd villain's fate
Is not from wrath precipitate,
But rather at a destined hour.
Lastly, we're charg'd with all our pow'r,
To keep ourselves, by care intense,
From all connexions with offence.

Latin text from Phaedrus at The Latin Library (Ad Fontes), English translations from The Fables of Phaedrus Translated into English Verse by Christopher Smart (London: 1913). Ben Perry, Babrius and Phaedrus (Loeb), contains the Latin texts of Phaedrus, with a facing English translation, along with a valuable appendix listing all the Aesop's fables attested in Greek and/or in Latin. Invaluable.