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Talpa caecior

Original post date: Saturday, June 16, 2007

In English: Blinder than a mole.

I though this would be a good follow-up to yesterday's proverb about the terra caecorum, "the country of the blind." For the ancient Romans, the mole was the proverbially blind creature, just as the bat is the proverbially blind creature in English: "blind as a bat."

There are some Aesop's fables about the blind mole, including the fable by Abstemius which happens to be the Fable of the Day for today over at LatinViaFables.com. Although the fables of Abstemius are no longer very well known, they were quite popular in the Renaissance and so I thought I would include here a different version of Abstemius's story, this time by Caspar Barth, who published a collection of Aesop's fables in verse in 1612:
Querenti Asello et eiulanti Simiae,
Quod ille cornibus, careret haec cauda
Compressit ora Talpa tali carmine.
O caecitatis adspicite miseriam huius,
Haec vos docebit abstinere questibus.
Aliena fata cum tuis, ubi expendis,
Minoribus maiora dant solacium.

When a donkey was complaining and a monkey was lamenting - the donkey because he lacked horns, and the monkey because she had no tail - the mole stopped their speaking with this pronouncement: Oh, gaze upon the wretchedness of this, my blindness; that will teach you to refrain from complaints. When you weigh your fate against the fates of others, greater troubles give consolation to lesser ones.
The closest equivalent to this sentiment that I've heard in English goes like this: "I complained that I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no legs."

Meanwhile, as for the blind mole, consider this elegant use of the proverbial figure here in a line from Shakespeare's Tempest, when Caliban says: "Pray you, tread softly, that the blind mole may not hear a foot fall."

So, here is today's proverb read out loud, but keep the volume low, so that the mole will not hear!

636. Talpa caecior.

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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