March 14, 2007

Lepore timidior

In English: More timid than a rabbit.

After yesterday's proverb about the rabbit and the dogs, I wanted to include this little saying that shows the rabbit was proverbially scared in Latin, just like in English, where we talk about "scaredy rabbits."

I've posted about cowardly rabbits in the past, and in that post I included the Steinhowel version of the Aesop's fable about the scared rabbits and the even more scared frogs. Since the story of the rabbits and the frogs is such a weird and wonderful fable, I thought I would post a different version of the fable, this time in a Latin version that I found thanks to Google Books. It comes from a marvelous old Aesop-for-schoolboys published in 1787. It's called "Aesop for Beginners," and you can see a copy of the old book page at It features the Latin text, plus an English translation to help those schoolboys in 1787 to understand the Latin!
Silva mugiente insolito turbine, trepidi Lepores occipiunt rapide fugere. Cum palus obsisteret fugientibus, flectere anxii, comprehensi periculis utrinque, quodque esset incitamentum maioris timoris, vident Ranas mergi in palude. Tunc unus ex Leporibus prudentior ac disertior ceteris inquit, Quid inaniter timemus? Est Opus animo quidem: est nobis agilitas corporis, sed animus deest. Hoc periculum turbinis non est fugiendum, sed contemnendum. Est opus animo in omni re. Virtus iacet sine confidentia. Nam confidentia est dux et regina virtutis.
Here is the 1787 translation:
The Wood roaring with unusual Whirlwind, the trembling Hares begin hastily to fly away. When a Fen stopped them flying, they stood anxious, encompassed with Dangers on boths sides. And what was an Incitement of greater Fear, they perceive the Frogs to be plunged in the Fen. Then one of the Hares more prudent and more eloquent than the rest said, What vainly do we fear? There is Need of Courage indeed: There is to us Agility of Body, but Courage is wanting. This Dnager of the Whirlwind is not to be fled from, but contemned. There is Need of Courage in every Thing. Virtue lies dead without Confidence. For Daringness is the Leader and Queen of Virtue.
In this version of the story, the rabbits are simply afraid of the noise and run away. In other versions of the story, the rabbits get so depressed about being cowards that they decide to all go drown themselves in the swamp, and the only thing that persuades them to not commit suicide is that they realize the frogs are even bigger cowards than they are!

So, in honor of the "Daringness, the Queen of Virtue," here is today's proverb read out loud:

643. Lepore timidior.

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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