June 02, 2007

Lupus hiat

In English: The wolf is gaping.

Like yesterday's lupus in fabula, the old saying lupus hiat is a bit enigmatic, and requires some explanation.

Erasmus, when he collected the saying in his Adagia, offers these comments: Dicebatur, si quis, re multum sperata, multumque appetita, frustratus, discederet, "This was said if somebody, when something has been much hoped for and much longed for, is frustrated and goes away."

And why a wolf? Erasmus explains, aiunt enim, lupum, praedae inhiantem, ritu late diducto accurrere: qua si frustretur, obambulare hiantem, "for they say that the wolf runs up, gulping at his prey, his mouth opened wide in vain; at which point if he fails, the wolf goes around with his mouth gaping."

Erasmus does not cite the wonderful Aesop's fable about the frustrated wolf. Here is the version in Barlow's Aesop:
Nutrix minatur Puerum plorantem, ni taceat, se lupo illum tradituram. Lupus praeteriens id forte audit et spe praedae manet ad fores. Puer tandem obrepente somno silescit. Regreditur lupus in silvas ieiunus et inanis. Lupa obviam illi habens sciscitatur, ubi sit praeda. Cui gemebundus Lupus, Verba (inquit) mihi data sunt, Puerum plorantem abiicere Nutrix minabatur, sed fefellit.

A nurse threatened her crying boy that, unless he was quiet, she was going to hand him over to the wolf. A wolf passing by happened to hear this and, hoping for the booty, he waited by the door. Sleep finally crept upon the boy and he became quiet. The wolf went back into the woods, hungry and empty-handed. The she-wolf ran into him and asked where the booty was. The wolf sighed and said, "Somebody tricked me: a nurse threatened to throw out the boy because he was crying, but she wasn't telling the truth."
Of course, the wolf can put the blame on the nurse in the fable, but it's the poor wolf who became proverbial: lupus hiat, the wolf is left with his mouth hanging open.

Here, then, is today's proverb read out loud:

1042. Lupus hiat.

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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