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Caught by greed

Regnator penus, & mensae corrosor[1] herilis,
Ostrea mus summis vidit hiulca labris.
Queîs teneram opponens[2] barbam falsa ossa momordit,
Illa recluserunt[3] tacta repente domum.
Depraensum & tetro tenuerunt carcere furem,
Semet in obscurum qui dederat tumulum.[4]

A mouse, king of the pantry, nibbler at the master’s table, saw oysters with their shells just slightly open. Applying his sensitive whiskers, he nibbled the deceptive bone. The oysters, when touched, suddenly slammed shut their house and held the thief, caught red-handed, in a noisome prison, a thief who had put himself into a lightless tomb.


1.  Textual variant: Regnatorque penus, mensaeque arrosor.

2.  Later editions read apponens.

3.  Textual variant: Ast ea clauserunt.

4.  This poem is a translation of Anthologia graeca 9.86.

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