November 15, 2006

Animum debes mutare, non caelum

In English: You should change your state of mind, not the sky.

In other words, a change of scenery will not necessarily be able to induce a change of feeling. If you have troubles, just "getting away" on vacation, say, will not necessarily let you get away from those troubles. The saying is adapted from the Roman poet Horace, in his Epistle 1.11: caelum, non animum mutant, qui trans mare currunt, "those who run across the sea change their sky but not their state of mind."

This is very true advice and it also features the delightful metaphor of "changing the sky" as a metaphor for travel. I'm about to embark on a little trip this weekend, so I will be changing sky myself for a few days - luckily I'm not trying to accomplish a change of mood in the process. Just doing some pre-Thanksgiving family visiting!

There's a delightful little fable by the medieval preacher Odo of Cheriton which cites this bit of advice as the moral to the story. You can read the Latin online at
A stork once got into an argument with his wife and he pecked out her eye with his beak. The stork was ashamed that he had done her such a great injury, so he flew off into another land. The crow ran into him and asked the reason for his journey. The stork said that he had pecked out his wife's eye with his beak. The crow replied: "Don't you still have the same beak?" The stork said yes. The crow then said: "So why are you running away, since, wherever you go, you carry your beak with you?" This is true also for those who commit many sins and who run away into another land or into a monastery. They nevertheless always carry with them their beak, their wickedness, their means of sinning, the Devil contained inside them. They change the sky, not their state of mind. [...]
As far as I know, this story of the stork and his wife is found only here in Odo; I have not seen it in any other medieval fable collection.

So, thinking about the wise words of that crow, here is today's proverb read out loud:

1552. Animum debes mutare, non caelum.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

If you are reading this via RSS: The Flash audio content is not syndicated via RSS; please visit the Latin Audio Proverbs blog to listen to the audio. You can also hear the Horatian version of this saying, coelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt read aloud at a Polish website: Wladyslawa Kopalinskiego Slownik wyraz?w obcych i zwrot?w obcojezycznych (weblink).
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