February 18, 2007

Canis in praesepi

In English: The dog in the manger.

The topic of yesterday's proverb was envy, invidia, so I thought this would be a fun proverb to use as a follow-up. This proverb, "the dog in the manger," is one of those sayings which derives from a fable, and in order to get the meaning of the proverb, you have to know the fable. So, here is the story of the envious dog in the manger, in the Latin version by Steinhowel:
Sunt plures, qui hoc invident aliis, quod ipsi habere nequeunt, et quamvis ipsis non prosit, tamen alios impediunt. De hoc audi fabulam. Canis impius iacebat in presepe, quod erat plenum feno. Et venientes boves ut comederent, non sinebat ore patulos suos dentes ostendens. Tunc boves dixerunt ei: Inique agis, naturam invidens in nobis, quam tu non habes.

There are many who have are jealous of others because of something that they themselves are unable to have, and even if it does them no good at all, they also prevent others from getting it. Listen to a story about this. There was a wicked dog lying in the manger, which was full of hay. And when the oxen came in order to eat, the dog did not allow them to do so, snarling at them and baring his teeth. Then the oxen said to him: "You are doing wrong, being envious of our natural condition, which is not your condition, for it is not your nature to eat hay, yet you forbid us to eat it."
Here is the early English translation by Caxton, which is included in the first book of Aesop to be published in English:
None ought not to haue enuye of the good of other / As it appiereth by this fable / Of a dogge whiche was enuyous / and that somtyme was within a stable of oxen / the whiche was ful of heye / This dogge kept the oxen that they shold not entre in to theyr stable / and that they shold not ete of the sayd hey / And thenne the oxen sayd to hym / Thow arte wel peruers and euylle to haue enuye of the good / the whiche is to vs nedefull and prouffitable / And thow hast of hit nought to doo / for thy kynde is not to ete no hey
As you can see, the spellchecker had not yet been invented when Caxton published his book in 1484.

You can also see some wonderful illustrations from the Steinhowel Aesop, published in 1479, 1501 and 1521 respectively, along with a great illustration by the 19th-century illustrator, Walter Crane - accompanied by the story in the form of an English limerick. I'm slowly tagging all the Aesop's fables at my websites with del.icio.us tags, so you can see a whole range of English and Latin versions of the fable at this del.icio.us link.

So, keeping in mind the whole sad story of the dog and the oxen, unhappy and hungry, here is today's proverb read out loud:

387. Canis in praesepi.

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

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