November 13, 2008

Nutrit et accipiter pullos suos

In English: Even a hawk nourishes its chicks.

This is a really fascinating little proverb which plays upon the fact that even though the hawk is a deadly predator, it nevertheless raises its own young with the tenderness that the chicks require. So, even though an animal - or a person - might have a strongly defined identity, you could still be surprised by the behavior of that animal in some other dimension of their life, such as in their loving attitude towards their own children.

This comes as a shock in the case of the hawk, of course, since it is notorious for preying on the chicks of other birds, as in the famous story of the hawk and the nightingale, where the hawk demands the the nightingale sing a pretty song in order to ransom her chicks. Here is the version in Steinhowel's Aesop (Perry 567) - you will see that the hawk does pay a price for his crime, with the lucky arrival of a hunter on the scene:
In nido lusciniae cum sederet accipiter, ut specularetur auras, parvos illic invenit pullos. Supervenit cito luscinia et rogavit parcere pullis suis. Faciam, quod vis, inquit, si bene mihi cantaveris. At illa, quamvis animus excederet, tanto metu coacta, pavens et dolore plena cantavit. Accipiter, qui praedam invenerat: Non bene cantasti, inquit. Et apprehendit unum de pullis ac devorare coepit. Tunc ex diverso quidam auceps venit et calamo silentio levato accipitrem visco contractum in terram deiecit.
When the hawk settled down into the nest of the nightingale in order to observe the winds, he found there the chicks of the nightingale. The nightingale arrived on the scene quickly and asked the hawk to spare her chicks. I will do what you want, said the hawk, if you can sing me a pretty song. But the nightingale, even though she tried with all her might, was so stricken by fear that she sang a fearful song, full of grief. The hawk, who had seized his prey, said: You did not sing very nicely! And he grabbed one of the chicks and began to gobble it up. Then from the opposite direction a certain bird-catcher came and having lifted up his reed stealthily he knocked the hawk to the ground, trapped by the bird lime.
Of course, as today's proverb points out, the hawk might act without pity towards the young of other birds, but it nevertheless cherishes its own chicks. It's all in that adverbial et - the hawk too, just like other birds, nourishes its young.

So, hoping that all you nightingales out there have managed to steer clear of the hawks today, here is today's proverb read out loud - reminding you that no matter how much you might fear those hawks, they have children to raise at home, too:

2087. Nutrit et accipiter pullos suos

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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