7.1 “Post grande intervāllum, dum sōlus in erēmō sedeō, et praeter caelum terramque nihil videō, coepī mēcum tacitus volvere, et, inter multa, monachōrum contubernia recordārī, maximēque vultum patris meī, quī mē ērudierat, tenuerat, perdiderat. 7.2 Sīcque cōgitāns, aspiciō formīcārum gregem angustō calle fervēre. Vidērēs onera māiōra quam corpora. Aliae herbārum quaedam sēmina forcipe ōris trahēbant, aliae ēgerēbant humum dē foveīs et aquārum meātūs aggeribus exclūdēbant. Illae, ventūrae hiemis memorēs, nē madefacta humus in herbam horrea verteret, illāta sēmina praecīdēbant; hae, lūctū celebrī, corpora dēfūncta portābant. Quodque magis mīrum est in tantō agmine, ēgrediēns nōn obstābat intrantibus; quīn potius, sī quam sub fasce vīdissent et onere concidisse, suppositīs umerīs, adiuvābant. 7.3 Quid multa? Pulchrum mihi spectāculum diēs illa praebuit, unde, recordātus Salomōnis ad formīcae sollertiam nōs mittentis et pigrās mentēs sub tālī exemplō suscitantis, coepī taedēre captīvitātis, et monastēriī cellulās quaerere ac formīcārum illārum sollicitūdinem dēsīderāre ubi labōrātur in medium, et, cum nihil cūiusquam proprium sit, omnia omnium sunt.

    Malchus is reasonably content in his life as a captive shepherd, but is reminded of the value of monastic life when he observes a colony of ants.

    dum ... sedeō ... coepī: “while I was sitting, I began.” When the main verb is in the perfect, a subordinate clause introduced by dum (“while”) regularly takes a present indicative to indicate past time. This is a special form of the historical present, and best translated with an imperfect in English (AG 556). sōlus in erēmō: possibly a bilingual wordplay, on sōlus “alone” and LL erēmus (“desert”), originally a Greek word meaning “solitary” (Gray).

    maximēque: the -que is redundant (this become more common in LL).

    vultum patris meī: his pater is the abbot of 3.5–6.

    ērudierat, tenuerat, perdiderat = ērudierat (et) tenuerat (et) perdiderat. < ērudiō -īre, “instruct, educate.” The omission of conjunctions between three coordinated terms is a normal form of brevity in Latin (see Caesar’s famous boast, vēnī vīdī vīcī)


    Sīcque: another redudant -que, as in 7.1.

    formīcārum gregem < formīca -ae f., “ant.”  Vergil compared the Trojans getting ready to set sail with ants, Aeneid 4.402-407; see also Georgics 4.149-227 for his famous description of the communal lives of bees.

    Vidērēs: “you could have seen” (Gray); potential subjunctive, with an indefinite second person singular (AG 447.2).

    herbārum quaedam sēmina: Malchus’ “desert” is interspersed with steppe areas, suitable for sheep herding (Gray).

    forcipe ōris: “with the pincer of the mouth”; < forceps forcipis f., “tongs, pincers.” Singular forms instead of plural.

    aliae ēgerēbant humum < ēgerō -ere, “remove, dig out” (OLD 2.b).

    aquārum meātūs aggeribus exclūdēbant: entymologists have observed that ants do in fact create dams to prevent the flooding of their nests.

    Illae: another group of ants, as though Malchus is pointing to them.

    ventūrae: future active participle

    nē madefacta humus in herbam horrea verteret = nē madefacta humus [fem. sing. nom.] verteret horrea [neut. pl. acc.] in herbam. verteret: imperf. subj. in a negative purpose clause (AG 531). horrea < horreum -ī n., “storehouse, granary”; by metonymy “the collected food supply.”

    illāta sēmina praecīdēbant < praecīdō -ere, “to break or cut off a tip, shorten,” another entymologically accurate detail, though they are probably in fact removing the fleshy nutrient rich outer part of a seed (the aril). Contrary to what Jerome says here in the purpose clause, this process seems to actually help the seed germinate faster.

    hae ... corpora dēfūncta portābant: as entymologists have confirmed, ants really do this.

    luctū celebrī < luctus -ūs m., “mourning, lamentation”; < celeber celebris celebre, “crowded, well-attended” (OLD 1.c); ablative of specification (AG 418).

    sī quam sub fasce vīdissent et onere concidisse ... adiuvābant < fascis -is m., “bundle”; < concidō concidere concidī, “to fall down.” quam = aliquam (AG 310.a). sub fasce ... onere: “a heavy load,” hyberbaton and hendiadys (Gray). vīdissent ... adiuvābant: pluperf. indic. and imperf. indic. in a past general condition, showing that the action is repeated or customary (AG 518.c).


    quid multa? “why (should I say) a lot?” i.e. “In short”; the idiom is typical of Cicero, especially in his letters.

    unde: “as a consequence” (OLD 11).

    recordātus Salomōnis: Solomon was thought to be the author of Proverbs, see 6.6-8: “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.”

    ad formīcae sōllertiam: < sollertia, ae, f. “cleverness.”

    mittentis ... suscitantis: pres. participles, gen. sing., with Salomōnis, “who was sending us, and ... rousing.”

    coepī taedēre captīvitātis: < taedet, taedere, taesum est “be sick of, be tired of”; here with the genitive.

    monastēriī cellulās: < cellula, ae, f. “small cell, cubicle.”

    sollicitūdinem: "watchful concern"

    ubi labōrātur in medium: lābōratur is impersonal, as often with intransitive verbs (AG 208d). in medium: “In common” (OLD 4b).

    cum nihil cūiusquam proprium sit: pres. subj. in a circumstantial cum clause (AG 546).

    omnia omnium: polyptoton ends the paragraph with a focus on a crucial aspect of monastic life. Bruce Venarde compares Acts 4:32, a locus classicus for monasticism: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common.”

    core vocabulary

    grandis grandis grande: full-grown, grown up; large, great, grand, tall, lofty; powerful; aged, old

    intervāllum -ī n.: the space between two stakes; an interval, distance

    erēmus -ī m. or f.: desert, waste land (late Latin)

    tacitus -a -um: silent

    volvō volvere voluī volūtum: to turn, roll; roll over in the mind, ponder

    monachus -ī m.: a monk

    contubernium -ī n.: companionship, a dwelling together

    recordor recordārī recordātus sum: to remember, recollect

    maximē: most greatly

    ērudiō ērudīre ērudiī ērudītum: to instruct, train; free from roughness

    formīca -ae f.: an ant

    grex gregis m.: herd, flock; troupe of actors

    angustus -a -um: narrow, steep, close, confined; scanty, poor; low, mean; narrowminded, petty

    callis -is m.: a narrow, uneven footpath; path

    ferveō fervēre ferbuī or fervō fervere fervī: to boil; (fig.), to blaze, be bright; flash; glow; stir, be alive, teeming; move, speed on; rage

    herba herbae f.: grass, herb

    sēmen sēmenis n.: seed; breeding, propagation

    forceps -ipis f.: a pair of tongs, pincers

    ēgerō ēgerere ēgessī ēgestum: to carry out, bring out, take away, remove, discharge:

    fovea -ae f.: a small pit, esp. for taking wild beasts

    meātus -ūs m.: a going; passage, course, movement, motion (> meo)

    agger aggeris m.: mound, rampart

    exclūdō exclūdere exclūsī exclūsus: to shut out, exclude; leave uncovered

    memor memoris: remembering; mindful (of, + gen.), grateful; unforgetting, commemorative

    madefaciō -ere -fēcī -factus: to make wet, to wet, moisten (> madeo and facio)

    horreum -ī n.: barn, granary

    praecīdō praecīdere praecīdī praecīsum: to cut off, cut short

    lūctus lūctūs m.: mourning, grief

    celeber celebris celebre: crowded

    dēfungor dēfungī dēfūnctus sum: to finish, complete; to depart, die

    mīrus -a -um: marvelous, wonderful

    obstō obstāre obstitī obstātum: to stand in the way; hinder, block

    potius: rather, more

    quis quid after sī nisī ne or num: anyone, anything, someone, something

    fascis -is m.: a bundle; burden, pl., fasces, ium, the fasces or bundle of rods, a symbol of authority, borne by the lictors before the higher magistrates of Rome, (meton.), civil honors

    concidō concidere concidī: to fall down, fall faint, fall dead, fall victim, fall to earth, fall short, collapse; drop, subside; decline; perish, be slain/sacrificed; lose one's case, fail, give out, lose heart, decay

    suppō -erenō -ere -posuī -positus: to put, put something in the place of another, substitute; place under; put to the throat, thrust under (> sub and pono)

    umerus umerī m.: shoulder

    adiuvō adiuvāre adiūvī adiūtum: to help, aid, abet, encourage, favor; cherish, sustain; be of use, be profitable

    spectāculum spectāculī n.: show, spectacle; (pl.) the seats for the audience

    Solomon (Salomon) -ōnis m.: Solomon (a name)

    piger pigra pigrum: lazy; inactive, barren

    suscitō suscitāre suscitāvī suscitātus: to stir up, turn up; to rekindle; rouse, incite; call forth

    taedet taedēre taesum est: to it makes (one) tired or sick

    captīvitās —ātis f. : servitude, captivity, bondage

    monastērium -ī n.: a monastery

    cellula -ae f.: a small store-room or apartment

    sollicitūdō -inis f. : anxiety; watchful concern, anxious care or attention, painstakingness

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