March 23, 2007

Procul ex oculis, procul ex mente

In English: Far away from the eyes, far away from the mind.

Instead of having a thematic connection to yesterday's proverb, cito maturum, cito putridum, today's proverb has a structural connection. Both proverbs are built on a parallel structure with a repeated adverb: cito...cito and procul...procul. Parallelisms is one of the hallmarks of proverbial style, and this is especially true in Latin, where parallelism is a strongly preferred style in all forms of expression, not simply proverbs.

You can see this same kind of parallelism at work in the English equivalent to this proverb, "out of sight, out of mind." There is no verb in either the Latin or the English proverb, but it's easy to supply a verb by applying the proverb to a particular situation. The verb might be about being in love, for example; when you are in love with someone, if you keep the person's picture around, it will drive you crazy, but if you get rid of the picture and don't have any opportunity to see the person, you will forget about her. "Out of sight, out of mind."

Of course, the saying does not have to be applied to situations of love; it can work with all kinds of emotions. If you are afraid of something, then not looking at it is best. Just close your eyes and don't look when the movie gets too scary! Procul ex oculis, procul ex mente.

An animal emblem for this saying would be the ostrich who hides its head in the sand. According to the ancient Romans, however, the ostrich did not hide its head in the sand but in a bush. Pliny actually makes fun of the ostrich for this stupid behavior: stoliditas in tanta reliqui corporis altitudine, cum colla frutice occultaverint, latere sese existimantium. , "Their stupidity is shown when they hide their head in a bush, thinking that they are invisible, when the rest of its very tall body is sticking out."

So, hoping you can apply today's proverb more wisely than the ostrich, here is the proverb read out loud:

370. Procul ex oculis, procul ex mente.

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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