September 11, 2007

Non faciunt meliorem equum aurei freni

In English: Golden reins do not make a better horse.

After posting about donkeys, I thought I would do a saying with a horse in it! This saying also has the motif of "gold" which we saw in yesterday's proverb about the gold ring in the pig's snout.

Unlike pigs and donkeys, of course, the horse is not immediately an object of ridicule. A horse has virtues, but golden reins are not what bring out the virtues of the horse. As Seneca observes, the golden reins are just decoration - and decoration is nothing to be praised!
Quis est ergo hic animus? qui nullo bono nisi suo nitet. Quid enim est stultius quam in homine aliena laudare? quid eo dementius qui ea miratur quae ad alium transferri protinus possunt? Non faciunt meliorem equum aurei freni.

And what is this soul? It is something which shines with no good unless its own good. What then could be more foolish than to praise in a man things which are not his own? What could be more crazy than someone being admired for things which can immediately be transferred to another person? Golden reins do not make a better horse.
Well said! This proverb always reminds me of the Aesop's fable about the boastful horse and his fine adornments. Here is the version in Barlow's Aesop:
Equus phaleris sellaque ornatus cum ingenti hinnitu per viam currebat. Currenti onustus Asellus forte obstabat, cui Equus fremebundus, Quid, inquit, Ignave, obsistis Equo? Cede, inquam, aut te proculcabo pedibus! Asellus rudere non ausus cedit tacitus. Equo provolanti crepat inguen. Tum cursui inutilis ornamentis spoliatur. Postea cum carro venientem Asinus affatur. Heus, mi Amice, quis ille ornatus est? Ubi aurea sella? Ubi splendidum frenum? Sic, Amice, necesse fuit evenire superbienti.

A horse, adorned with trappings and a saddle, with a loud whinny ran through the street. As he was running along, a donkey bearing burdens ran into him by chance. The horse roared at the donkey: How dare you, lazy brute, stand in the way of a horse? Get out of my way, I say, or I will trample you with my hooves! The donkey did not dare to bray and silently gave way. As the horse ran along, he pulled his groin muscle. Then, useless for racing, he was stripped of his fine ornaments. Later on, when he came by pulling a wagon, the donkey addressed him: Ho there, my friend, what adornment is this? Where is your golden saddle? Where is your elegant bridle? That's how it goes, my Friend: it had to turn out this way for someone so boastful.
Oh, how the mighty are fallen!So, in honor of the wise donkey in the fable, here is today's proverb read out loud:

1875. Non faciunt meliorem equum aurei freni.

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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