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Fatuitas.

Stupidity.

Emblema lxv.

Miraris nostro quòd carmine diceris Otus,[1]
Sit vetus à proavis cùm tibi nomen Otho.[2]
Aurita est, similes & habet ceu noctua plumas,[3]
Saltantémque auceps mancipat aptus avem.[4]
Hinc fatuos, captu & faciles, nos dicimus otos:
Hoc tibi conveniens tu quoque nomen habe.

You are surprised that in my poem you are called Otus, when your ancient family name, handed down for generations, is Otho. The otus is eared and has feathers like the little owl. The skilful birdcatcher gets the bird into his power as it dances. For this reason we call stupid people, easy to catch, oti. You too can have this name, which suits you.

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PLeríque gloriosuli suum nomen ab antiquo quo-
dam & nobili genere trahunt, quanquam indi-
gnissimè, cùm nulla sua virtute praeclaro nomini re-
spondeant. proinde fit interdum, ut nomine leviter
immutato vel detorto, dignam factis appellatio-
nem sortiantur: ut hîc Otho gloriabundus quis-
piam & arrogans, non quidem ab Othone, uti ia-
ctabat, Imperatore,[5] sed ab Otide, ave fatua, para-
sitica, captúque facili.

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Contre un fat, ou sottelet.

POurquoy te fasches tu, pauvre homme,
Si presentement je te nomme
Otis: quoy que sois, ce dit-on,
Extraict de la race d’Othon?
Otis d’aureilles & plumettes
Ressemble fort bien aux Chouettes:
L’oiseleur la prend en saultant,
Quand il voit qu’elle en faict autant.
Ainsi puis-je nommer Otides
Les follets, qui de cerveau vuides
Se prennent par trop aisément.
Doncques ce nom est voirement
Fort convenable & par droicture
A ton humeur, à ta nature.

IL y a certains petits esventez, qui tirent
leur nom de quelque ancienne & noble
race, quoy que fort mal à propos, veu que
en façon du monde ils ne respondent à leur
beau nom. A l’occasion dequoy advient par-
fois que leur nom estant un petit destourné
ou changé, ils sont remarquez comme ils
le meritent: comme icy un quidam presom-
ptueux: & arrogant Otho, est ainsi nommé,
non-pas de l’Empereur Otho, mais de l’Oti-
de, qui est un oiseau follet, gesticulateur, &
qui aisément se laisse prendre.

Notes:

1.  Otus, the long-eared owl.

2.  It is unclear exactly what Alciato is referring to here. As is made clearer by Mignault in the commentary it is not the Emperor Otho (see note 5, below), but the bustard (otis in Latin, otide in French), a large tufted bird that has interesting mating habits, which (following the commentary in the 1615 edition) consists of strutting and preening to such an extent that the bird is easy to catch. It is there likened to a man named Otho known for his haughty manner, who came from an ancient lineage, in which instance Alciato could originally have been referring in a punning manner to Lucius Roscius Otho, a Roman tribune who authored the law that the knights should occupy the premier seats in a theatre and was much abused for it.

3.  See Pliny, Natural History, 11.50.137: only the eagle-owl and the long-eared owl have feathers like ears (the little owl - noctua - does not in fact have ear-tufts).

4.  See Pliny, Natural History, 10.33.68: ‘The otus is an imitator of other birds and a hanger-on, performing a kind of dance; like the little owl, it is easily caught, when its attention is fixed on one person while another person circles round it’. See also Plutarch, Moralia, Bruta animalia ratione uti, 951E.

5.  Emperor Otho (Marcus Salvius Otho) was Roman emperor from January to April in 69, infamous for his licentious lifestyle as a party friend of Emperor Nero, and the underhanded manner in which he overthrew his predecessor (Galba, Nero’s successor).



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