February 13, 2007

Vaga est fortuna

In English: Fortune is fickle.

This is another proverb that helps to paint a picture of Roman Fortuna. With yesterday's proverb, Fortuna est rotunda, we would have gone astray if we said "Fortune is rotund." Instead, Fortuna is rotunda, "round," like a "wheel," rota. The same pitfall awaits us here. Although the Latin word vaga does give us the English word "vague," the sense of this saying in Latin is not that Fortune is vague. Instead, Fortune wanders, she comes and goes, she has no fixed place or abode. Fortune is a vagabond, going from place to place, bestowing her favors on one person and then changing her mind, moving on, and bestowing her attentions on someone else. Hence, Fortune is fickle.

You can find this sentiment expressed in a nice little passage from Cicero: Vide quam sit varia vitae commutabilisque ratio, quam vaga volubilisque fortuna, quantae infidelitates in amicis, "Look at how shifting and changing is the business of life, how fickle and flightly is Fortune, how many betrayals there are among friends," etc. The fickleness of Fortune is clearly equated to be a bad thing. We want to be able to count on Fortune, like a friend, but instead she betrays us, as our other friends do, too.

Although, if you ask me, it seems to me that this is a glass half-full half-empty kind of scenario. With yesterday's proverb, we learned about the wheel of Fortune, and how she goes up and down. With today's proverb, we learned that she is vaga, she comes and she goes. So you can think about Fortune going down and going away... or you can think about Fortune coming up and heading your way. Fortune is not your friend, but she is also not your enemy!

So, hoping your glass is half-full, here is today's proverb read out loud:

4. Vaga est fortuna.

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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1 comment:

Raven said...

Vaga definitely reminds me of vagary or vagaries of life, vagabond.

It's interesting how many latin roots are still used in English and Romance Languages. Even Korean and Japanese contain them in Romanji.