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The Dancing Apes

January 24, 2012
In an attempt to win back the linguistic ability that this bronchitis has stolen from me, I present my translation of an under-appreciated fable of Aesop’s.

The Dancing Apes

Once upon a time an Egyptian king taught some apes to dance. The beasts, who were most enthusiastic about mimicking men, soon learned to dance beautifully, donning clothes and masks. After some time these apes became incomparably famous. But eventually a smart guy in the audience with nuts in his pocket thew some onto the stage. When the apes saw the nuts, they stopped dancing and became apes again instead of dancers. Throwing down the clothes and masks, they began to fight one another over the nuts.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. linebrick permalink*
    January 25, 2012 4:51 am

    what is the moral

  2. February 1, 2012 6:39 am

    An important (if repulsive) comparandum (Semoides fr. 7 ll. 71-82):

    τὴν δ’ ἐκ πιθήκου· τοῦτο δὴ διακριδὸν
    Ζεὺς ἀνδράσιν μέγιστον ὤπασεν κακόν.
    αἴσχιστα μὲν πρόσωπα· τοιαύτη γυνή
    εἶσιν δι’ ἄστεος πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις γέλως·
    ἐπ’ αὐχένα βραχεῖα, κινεῖται μόγις,
    ἄπυγος, αὐτόκωλος. ἆ τάλας ἀνὴρ
    ὅστις κακὸν τοιοῦτον ἀγκαλίζεται.
    δήνεα δὲ πάντα καὶ τρόπους ἐπίσταται
    ὥσπερ πίθηκος· οὐδέ οἱ γέλως μέλει,
    οὐδ’ ἄν τιν’ εὖ ἔρξειεν, ἀλλὰ τοῦθ’ ὁρᾶι
    καὶ τοῦτο πᾶσαν ἡμέρην βουλεύεται,
    ὅκως τιν’ ὡς μέγιστον ἔρξειεν κακόν.

    “And [he made] another woman out of an ape; this above all was really
    the greatest evil that Zeus granted men;
    she has the most hideous face — this kind of woman
    provides laughter for all the people throughought town —
    she’s got a short neck on her; she barely moves;*
    no ass, all legs — O wretched man
    whoever embraces such an evil! —
    and she knows all the plots and wiles
    like an ape, and doesn’t care about the laughter,
    and she doesn’t do well by anybody, but looks to this,
    and plots this all day long:
    how she might do somebody an evil.”

    *A dirty pun; κινέω is also a euphamisim for sex. So this might also mean (interpreting the verb as the passive of κινέω “to screw” instead of the middle of κινέω “to move”) “She gets screwed only with toil” — presumably toil on the man’s part.

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