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Aliorum medicus ipse ulceribus scates

Original post date: Tuesday, August 28, 2007

In English: You, a doctor to others, are covered all over with sores.

This is a variation on the famous "physician, heal thyself" type of proverb. I decided to include this proverb today (from Erasmus's Adagia, 2.5.38) because it is related to an Aesop's fable about a frog, just like the fable from yesterday about the puffed-up frog.

The story goes that the frog had decided to set up shop as a doctor. Here is the version in Barlow's Aesop:
Rana paludibus valedicens, et novo vivendi genere acquisito, in silvam gloriabunda sese tulit, et bestiarum coronis circumstipata, medicinae artem publice profitebatur, et in herbis quae ad corpora curanda pertinent, nobiliorem se vel Galeno vel Hippocrate esse clamitabat. Credula bestiarum gens fidem facile adhibebant, vulpe solummodo excepta, quae sic glorianti irridebat. "Insulsum vagumque animal! Quid tam vana blatteras? Quid artem nobilem prae te fers quam minime calles? Livida pallidaque - illa tua labra respice: quin domi abi, et teipsum cura, medice! Deinde ad nos redeas meliora forsan de te speraturos. Nihil respondente rana, sed tacitis secum gemente suspiriis, tota bestiarum cachinnis resonabat silva.

The frog said goodbye to her swamp and adopted a new mode of life, and quite puffed up with pride she went into the forest. Girded round with the beasts' wreaths of honor, she professed publicly the art of medicine, declaring which herbs which are useful in curing the body's diseases, shouting that she was more worthy of honor than Galen or Hippocrates. The gullible animal kingdom easily put their trust in the frog - except only for the fox, who laughed at the boasting frog. "You witless and giddy creature! Why do you babble such foolish things? Why do you assume this worthy art which you know absolutely nothing about? Sickly green and pale - look at your own lips: why don't you just go home and cure yourself, doctor! And then you might come back to us, when we may perhaps expect something more useful from you." The frog said nothing in response, but groaned with quiet sighs, and all the woods resounded with the laughter of the beasts.
You can see a great illustration for this story by Francis Barlow, featuring all kinds of animals looking on at the dialogue between the fox and the frog - you can even see a squirrel and a monkey up in the tree observing!

So, hoping your day has been entirely free of quacks - aquatic or otherwise - here is today's proverb read out loud:

1521. Aliorum medicus ipse ulceribus scates.

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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