May 07, 2008

Cicada cicadae cara, formicae formica

In English: Cricket is dear to cricket, ant to ant.

Summer has finally begun, so that gave me two good reasons for choosing today's proverb. First, since I will be working hard this summer on Aesop, finishing up my Aesop's fable book for Bolchazy-Carducci, I will be paying special attention to Latin animal fables and proverbs. So, this nice little proverb about crickets and ants falls into that category! Plus, in honor of summer, it seems only right to start off with one of the most famous Aesop's fables about how the ant and the cricket spend their summer time.

First, the proverb. The idea of one cricket being dear to another cricket while an ant is dear to another ant is a variation on the "birds of a feather flock together" type of proverb. The saying can be found in Erasmus's Adages, who cites a line from Theocritus: Τέττιξ μὲν τέττιγι φίλος, μύρμακι δὲ μύρμαξ, / ἴρακες δ᾽ ἴραξιν, which he then renders in Latin: Formicae grata est formica, cicada cicadae, / accipiter placet accipitri, "ant is pleasing to ant, cricket to cricket; a hawk pleases a hawk." Erasmus then adds a bit of natural history to go along with his Greek source: nota est formicarum politia, et cicadarum conventus, "the civic community (politia) of ants is well known, as is the gathering of crickets together." (I do have to point out, however, that hawks are not famous for flocking... although at least they do not prey on each other as they do on the lesser birds!)

What the proverb implies but does not state explicitly is that while ants get along famously with each other, or cickets with other crickets, there is no love lost between them, as the famous Aesop's fable about the ant and the cricket shows! Here is the version from Barlow's edition of Aesop:

Dum per aestatem Cicada cantat, Formica suam exercet messem, trahendo in antra grana et in hiemem reponendo. Saeviente autem bruma, famelica Cicada venit ad Formicam et mendicat victum; renuebat autem Formica, dictitans sese laborasse, dum illa cantabat.

For an English version, here is Caxton's marvelous 15th century rendering, where the cricket is referred to as the "sygall": It is good to purueye hym self in the somer season of suche thynges / wherof he shalle myster and haue nede in wynter season / As thow mayst see by this present fable / Of the sygalle / whiche in the wynter tyme went and demaunded of the ant somme of her Corne for to ete / And thenne the Ant sayd to the sygall / what hast thow done al the somer last passed / And the sygalle ansuerd / I haue songe / And after sayd the ante to her / Of my corne shalt not thou none haue / And yf thow hast songe alle the somer / daunse now in wynter /

So, hoping you have a summer worthy of both the cricket AND of the ant, with some forward-looking work but some fun times, too, here is today's proverb read out loud:

35. Cicada cicadae cara, formicae formica.

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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