Avis nidum, araneus cassem, homo amicitiam

Discussion in 'Lingua Latina (Latin)' started by Casquilho, Aug 29, 2012.

  1. Casquilho Senior Member

    São Paulo, Brazil
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Hi, can you help me please?

    I've tried to translate this proverb of Blake, "The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship" as
    avis nidum, araneus cassem, homo amicitiam. However, I'm not sure about this use of accusative. Would it be better to use nominative case? What do you think?
  2. J.F. de TROYES Senior Member

    I think the accusative is the good choice , but I'd prefer a dative expressing the possession :

    Avi nidus, araneae cassus, homini amicitia.

  3. Casquilho Senior Member

    São Paulo, Brazil
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Thank you J. F.; that would say literally "A nest to the bird, a web to the spider, friendship to the man", right? By the way, I think the nominative is casses, not?
  4. Hamlet2508 Senior Member

    It is indeed.
  5. J.F. de TROYES Senior Member

    You're right and sorry for the blunder ! Indeed , *cassus is wrong and the word is cassis, -is, but is also used in the plural : casses, -ium with the same meaning.

    So : Avi nidus, araneae casses, homini amicitia.
  6. stevelogan Member


    I do not agree that dative is better. Dative has a sense motion in it - in a concrete or a metaphoric way - like in "I give it to you = tibi concedo".

    Here, the meaning is more about "possession" and not any sense of (metaphoric) "location" or "motion":

    "(as long as) bird has nest, spider has web, man has friendship (to be cared of )".

    So ....

    avis (habet) nidus, araneus cassem, homo amicitiam

    seems far better and habet is grammatical in concordance with all the three nouns....
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2012
  7. Hamlet2508 Senior Member

    You may have missed the fact that this is a possessive dative. Never knew that the dative conveyed a sense of movement.
  8. stevelogan Member

    I did not missed, I just omitted. I was only expressing a preference between dative and accusative in this example.
    There are also the "ethical dative" vale mihi, the "advantage dative" pugno patriae (Ifight for my country).
    Dative comes from cāsus datīvus, "case for giving", a translation of Greek δοτικὴ πτῶσις, dotikē ptôsis "inflection for giving".
    Is it so difficult to see that the "action of giving" have a sense of motion in it? Well maybe.
    Any language has many inflection and facets, and our personal preferences can be driven by different aspects.
    Dative is a preference, as long as accusative is, in this sentence.
  9. J.F. de TROYES Senior Member

    As you know, Domum habeo is frequently turned into Domus mihi est. That's why I've chosen to use datives.
  10. CapnPrep Senior Member

    No, it is not difficult, but despite its name, the dative case does not always express an "act of giving" and many uses of the dative include no "sense of motion". Assuming that the relationship between the nouns in the English is one of possession, the dative of the possessor is in fact a "far better" choice for the Latin translation than the accusative of the thing possessed, especially if we wish to preserve the verbless construction.

    The fact that Blake left out the verb in English means that possession is not the only possible interpretation of this proverb. We could imagine that he meant that birds build nests and use them for shelter/protection, spiders need their webs for nourishment, etc., and in the same way, man has a need to construct friendships, man finds refuge and strength in friendship, etc. The dative construction is again the best way to leave all of these possibilities open in Latin: As a nest [is] to the bird (avi), as a web [is] to the spider (araneae), so friendship [is] to man (homini).
  11. stevelogan Member

    yes, and you will say "nomen mihi est" instead of "nominem habeo". I don't know, preferences come out from use and readings.
    Some expressions seems better then some grammatically-equivalent ones only because one prefer to read some authors other prefer other ones....
    Dative is far good, as I said...
  12. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Particularly since the accusative of nomen is nomen, not nominem. :rolleyes:
  13. stevelogan Member

    Oh my bad, I made a mistake that's terrible.

    Returning to the topic i.e. the translation of this short motto... I said I had a slight preference (it is not a rule) for accusative, in this particular sentence.

    I gave an explanation, that is centered on consideration: when we transalte in Latin tto think that every expression can have a sense an origin or a reason or an ethimogical pathway behind it. Taking (also) this into account could help form a personal taste or style.

    I wrote (and spoke) a lot in Latin, and after a while- when you spoke - you tend to concentrate more on what you want to express than grammar, like in every living and spoken language. Of course it is a bery bad thing to make mistakes.
    This approach generate some grammar errors sometimes, but it can give you the perception that language is a living thing, besides grammar. Even for Latin.

    Dative to express possession is very used, common and perfectly suitable, no question.
    Maybe the fact is that, is common. Maybe too common. To scholastic in my way.
    In a three partitioned short motto like that, I'd (only me) I'd prefer to use accusative.

    But ....Dative for possession is perfecty suitable and common...:)

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