Thursday, January 8, 2009

Alciato L: Dolus in suos

Alciato L: Dolus in suos

Altilis allectator anas, et caerula pennis,
Assueta ad dominos ire redire suos,
Congeneres cernens volitare per aera turmas,
Garrit, in illarum se recipitque gregem,
Praetensa incautas donec sub retia ducat:
Obstrepitant captae, conscia at ipsa silet.
Perfida cognato se sanguine polluit ales,
Officiosa aliis, exitiosa suis.

This image comes from a 1621 edition of the emblems (click on the image for a larger view), and you can also read an English translation online. For help with the Latin, here is the poem presented in an easier-to-read format, with the word order rearranged (the word order in poetry often serves the sound more than the sense), and with the phrase segments clearly marked:
altilis allectator
et caerula pennis,
assueta ire redire
ad dominos suos,
congeneres turmas
volitare per aera,
et se recipit
in illarum gregem,
donec ducat incautas
sub retia praetensa:
captae obstrepitant,
at ipsa, conscia, silet.
Perfida ales se polluit
cognato sanguine,
officiosa aliis,
exitiosa suis.
To learn more about the motif of the treacherous bird, see this Aesop's fable about a perfidious partridge. Below you can see some more images from other editions of Alciato's Emblemata:




  1. My family name means pheasant in Italian . Is there a a fable about a pheasant or an emblem for this bird?
    Gratias tibi.
    Frank Fasano

  2. Hi Frank, what a great question! Latin fasianus (later spelled phasianus - and the word is originally Greek I believe) is not a bird who shows up in Aesop's fables... but there is an odd little book called the Dialogus creaturarum moralizatus which features a pheasant in Dialogus 62 and 65 - you can read that here. I cannot find anything else at all - not even in the bestiary tradition about animals in general. That is a really intriguing question... I will definitely keep an eye out for pheasants from now on and let you know if I find anything! :-)