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Facile omnes cum valemus recta consilia aegrotis damus

Original post date: Sunday, April 08, 2007

In English: We all find it easy to give the right advice to the sick when we are well.

I thought this would be a good follow-up to yesterday's proverb about how a person's attitude in the world is very much a matter of context. In yesterday's proverb, we saw that when the mouse was full he did not have a very high estimation of common fare. Today's proverb uses the metaphor of sickness and health: we all find it easy to give the right advice to sick people when we are well, we find it easy to give the right advice to poor people when we are rich, easy to give the right advice to students who are failing a class when we are getting an "A" and so on. What you think about the world is based on just who you are and how you are living your own life.

The English saying comes from Terence's comedy, Andria, "the girl from Andros." The story is about a young man, Pamphilus, in love with a disreputable "girl from Andros," although his father has arranged for him to be married to a very respectable girl next door. Just to complicate things, as in any good comedy, the young man's best friend, Charinus, is in love with his betrothed, the girl next door. Of course, everything works out well in the end. It turns out the girl from Andros is really the long lost daughter of the family next daughter, and hence sister to the girl next door. Our hero marries his beloved, his best friend marries the girl next door, and everyone lives happily ever after. Curious? You can read an English translation at Google Books. (Normally, I'd link to the English version at the Perseus website, but the Perseus website has been dead for several days now; I wonder if they will manage to bring it back to life after the latest server crash.)

Today's saying comes up early in the play, when a slave has come to tell Charinus the good news: the Pamphilus is getting married to the girl next door. Charinus, of course, is devastated. The slave advises him to just to put the woman out of his mind: quanto satiust te id dare operam qui istum amorem ex animo amoveas tuo, quam id loqui quo mage lubido frustra incendatur tua!, "how much better it would be for you to direct your efforts to removing that love from your mind, rather than to talk about it, when it only inflames your passion even more, to no avail." Although this is definitely good advice, Charinus explains that it does not do him any good: facile omnes quom valemu' recta consilia aegrotis damus, "We all find it easy to give the right advice to the sick when we are well."

Charinus then goes on to add: tu si hic sis aliter sentias, "you, if you were in my place, would feel differently."

That, indeed, is the unspoken implication of today's saying. We are very good at giving advice to the sick when we are well, but if we ourselves succumb to sickness, all that good advice just goes out the window! It's all a matter of context. If this slave were love-sick, as his master is, he would not find it so easy to keep his mind from turning constantly to thoughts of his beloved.

I will confess to being a great fan of Roman comedies. Even if you are just a beginning Latin student, you can read the wonderful adapted comedy, Auricula Meretricula, "The Little Prostitute Named Earlobe," which reprises the stock characters and basic plot of the comedies. It's easy enough to read in the first semester of Latin, and is great preparation for reading Plautus and Terence later on!

Meanwhile, in honor of Roman comedy, here is today's proverb read out loud:

1560. Facile omnes cum valemus recta consilia aegrotis damus.

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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