July 18, 2007

Rarus fidus amicus

In English: A faithful friend is rare.

Carrying on with the topic of proverbs about friendship, I wanted to post this very simple but wise proverb. By simple, I mean just that it is very simple grammatically, consisting of nothing more than a second declension noun (amicus) and two adjectives (rarus, fidus), all in the nominative singular case. It's the kind of thing that can be introduced on the very first day of a Latin class, while giving much food for thought.

Basically, the saying warns us that while friendship is great in theory, in practice things may turn out to be less than ideal. You have a friend, but are you sure that this friend will remain true to you? The proverb warns you that your expectations may be overly hopeful.

For Thomas à Kempis, in his thoughtful treatise, The Imitation of Christ, the problems with human friendship are countered only by the perfection of divine friendship: Rarus fidus amicus, in cunctis amici perseverans pressuris. Tu Domine, tu solus es fidelissimus in omnibus, et praeter te non est alter talis, "The faithful friend is rare, rare is the friend who remains steadfast in all the difficulties oppressing his friend. You, Lord, you alone are completely faithful in all things, and beside you there is no other who does so."

On a more humorous note, there is also a great Aesop's fable about two friends who meet a bear along the road, which provokes a crisis in their friendship. You can find this fable in many versions; here is a little iambic poem by the Renaissance poet, Caspar Barth:
Sodalitate mutua
Viam duo unam iniverant,
Fide data ut periculis
Iuvaret alter alterum.
Parum viae cum itum foret
Fit obvia ursa: quae, prius
Inire quam fugam pote,
Prope ingruit. Tum in arborem
Levatus ille subfugit,
Supinus iste corruit,
Timore mortuum exprimens.
At ursa cum putaret hunc
Neci, olim obisse, traditum,
Anhelitum ore sublegens
Nec invenire eum potens,
Metu premente frigido.
Nec alterum altam in arborem
Pote esset usque consequi,
Utrumque liquit innocem.
Ibi ille qui alta in arbore
Periculum insuper sui
Amici habebat: "Optime,
Quid," inquit, "atra belua
Profundam in aurem, obambulans,
Tibi locuta sit, cedo."
At alter: "A sodalibus
Cavere deinde ad hunc modum
Monebat infidelibus."
Pericla ni probant, fidem
Dare hanc sodalibus cave.


In mutual alliance, two men embarked on a single road, having pledged that they would help one another in danger. When they had gone a little ways, they ran into a bear and the bear attacked before they could get away. One friend escaped by climbing up into a tree, while the other fell to the ground, face-down, in his fear seeming to be dead. The bear, when she thought the man was a corpse, supposedly walked around him once and then checked to see if he was breathing, but found that he was not, oppressed as he was by cold terror. And since the bear was not able to get to the other friend up in the tall tree, she left each of them unharmed. Then the one up in the tall tree who had regarded his danger above friend, said: "Excellent! What did that dire beast say to you, whispering into your ear as she walked around you - tell me!" And the other replied: "She warned me to henceforth beware of friends who are so faithless." Unless dangers have tested your friends, be careful of putting your trust in them.
A very witty riposte in a decidedly unfunny situation!

So, hoping you are able to avoid the bears on any journeys you might make today, here is today's proverb read out loud:

41. Rarus fidus amicus.

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

If you are reading this via RSS: The Flash audio content is not syndicated via RSS; please visit the Latin Audio Proverbs blog to listen to the audio.
Keep up with the latest posts... Subscribe by Email. I also post a daily round-up of all the Bestiaria Latina blogs: fables, proverbs, crosswords, and audio.



No comments: