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Cuculi.

Cuckoos

XIX.

Ruricolas agreste genus plerique cuculos
Cur vocitent, quaenam prodita causa fuit?[1]
Vere novo cantat Coccyx, quo tempore vites
Qui non absolvit iure notatur iners.
Fert ova in nidos alienos, qualiter ille
Cui thalamum prodit uxor adulterio.

Whatever explanation has been given for the custom of calling country-dwellers, that rustic race, ‘cuckoos’? - When spring is new, the cuckoo calls, and anyone who has not pruned his vines by this time is rightly blamed for being idle. The cuckoo desposits its eggs in other birds’ nests, like the man on whose account a wife betrays her marriage bed in adultery.

Notes:

1. See Pliny, Natural History, 18.66.249, and Horace, Satires, 1.7.31, for the use of the word ‘cuckoo’ as term of mockery for the idle man who has failed to finish pruning his vines before the cuckoo is heard calling.


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    Prudentes.

    The Wise.

    VIII.

    Iane bifrons, qui transacta futuraque calles,
    Quique retro sannas sicut & ant vides, [1]
    Tot te cur oculis, tot fingunt vultibus? an qud
    Circunspectum hominem forma fuisse docet?

    Two-headed Janus, you know about what has already happened and what is yet to come, you see the jeering faces behind just as you see them in front. Why do they represent you with so many eyes, why with so many faces? Is it because this form tells us that you were a man of circumspection?

    Notes:

    1. quique retro sannas, sicut et ante, vides, ‘you see the jeering faces behind just as you see them in front’, a line based on Persius, Satirae, 1.58-62.


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