Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Parturiunt Montes, Nascetur Ridiculus Mus

From Christopher Smart's metrical version of the fables of Phaedrus:

XVIII. THE MOUNTAIN IN LABOR.

The Mountain labor'd, groaning loud,
On which a num'rous gaping crowd
Of noodles came to see the sight,
When, lo ! a mouse was brought to light!
This tale 's for men of swagg'ring cast,
Whose threats, voluminous and vast,
With all their verse and all their prose,
Can make but little on't, God knows.


Phaedrus was a first century author known for Latinizing Aesop; this is one of Aesop's fables, a very short one:

A Mountain was once greatly agitated. Loud groans and noises were heard, and crowds of people came from all parts to see what was the matter. While they were assembled in anxious expectation of some terrible calamity, out came a Mouse.


Phaedrus's Latin version is fairly similar. This particular image is also found in Horace's Art of Poetry v, as part of his advice to writers to begin simply and not bombastically. It is from Horace that I take the title of the post; it's perhaps my favorite Latin proverb, and finds handy application everywhere. The mountains are in labor; a ridiculous mouse will be born!

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