The Battle of Frogs and Mice, Part 4: A Frog Makes an Offer; A Mouse Becomes Europa

Earlier, the Frog listened to a detailed description of the Mouse’s delicate diet. Now the Frog makes an offer:

Grinning, Bellowmouth responded:
“Friend, you brag about your belly. We also
have many marvels to see in the pond and on the shore.
Zeus gave the frogs an amphibious realm:
We dance on the land or immerse ourselves in water 60
We inhabit homes divided doubly in these parts.
If you wish to learn about these things too, it’s simple.
Climb on my back, hold on tight so you don’t slip
and you will come to my home in good order.”

Thus he spoke and offered up his back. Crumbthief hopped on quickly,
holding his hands to the light band around Bellowmouth’s delicate neck.
At first he rejoiced when he saw the neighboring harbors
and delighted in Bellowmouth’s swimming. But then, when he was
splashed by the dark waves, he poured forth a flood of tears
and reproached his useless change of mind. He tore his hairs,                 70
squeezed his feet around his stomach and his heart
shook at the novelty because wished to get back to land.
He wailed dreadfully under the oppression of chilling fear.
First, he set his tail into the water as though guiding a rudder,
and prayed to the gods to make it to the shore.
He was splashed again by the murky water, and kept shouting out for help.
Then he made a speech like this as he proclaimed:

“Didn’t the bull carry his cargo of love this way
when he led Europa over the waves to Krete?
That’s just how this frog set out to lead a mouse to his house             80
after floating his pale body on a white wave.”

Crumbthief's Thoughts Were Probably less Idyllic
Crumbthief’s Thoughts Were Probably less Idyllic

Πρὸς τάδε μειδήσας Φυσίγναθος ἀντίον ηὔδα•

57 ξεῖνε λίην αὐχεῖς ἐπὶ γαστέρι• ἔστι καὶ ἡμῖν
58 πολλὰ μάλ’ ἐν λίμνῃ καὶ ἐπὶ χθονὶ θαύματ’ ἰδέσθαι.
59 ἀμφίβιον γὰρ ἔδωκε νομὴν βατράχοισι Κρονίων,
60 σκιρτῆσαι κατὰ γαῖαν, ἐν ὕδασι σῶμα καλύψαι,

61 στοιχείοις διττοῖς μεμερισμένα δώματα ναίειν.
62 εἰ δ’ ἐθέλεις καὶ ταῦτα δαήμεναι εὐχερές ἐστι•
63 βαῖνέ μοι ἐν νώτοισι, κράτει δέ με μήποτ’ ὀλίσθῃς,
64 ὅππως γηθόσυνος τὸν ἐμὸν δόμον εἰσαφίκηαι.
65 ῝Ως ἄρ’ ἔφη καὶ νῶτ’ ἐδίδου• ὁ δ’ ἔβαινε τάχιστα
66 χεῖρας ἔχων τρυφεροῖο κατ’ αὐχένος ἅμματι κούφῳ.
67 καὶ τὸ πρῶτον ἔχαιρεν ὅτ’ ἔβλεπε γείτονας ὅρμους ,
68 νήξει τερπόμενος Φυσιγνάθου• ἀλλ’ ὅτε δή ῥα
69 κύμασι πορφυρέοισιν ἐκλύζετο πολλὰ δακρύων
70 ἄχρηστον μετάνοιαν ἐμέμφετο, τίλλε δὲ χαίτας,
71 καὶ πόδας ἔσφιγγεν κατὰ γαστέρος, ἐν δέ οἱ ἦτορ
72 πάλλετ’ ἀηθείῃ καὶ ἐπὶ χθόνα βούλεθ’ ἱκέσθαι•
73 δεινὰ δ’ ὑπεστενάχιζε φόβου κρυόεντος ἀνάγκῃ.
74 οὐρὴν μὲν πρῶτ’ ἔπλασ’ ἐφ’ ὕδασιν ἠΰτε κώπην
75 σύρων, εὐχόμενος δὲ θεοῖς ἐπὶ γαῖαν ἱκέσθαι
76 ὕδασι πορφυρέοισιν ἐκλύζετο, πολλὰ δ’ ἐβώστρει•
77 καὶ τοῖον φάτο μῦθον ἀπὸ στόματός τ’ ἀγόρευσεν•
78 Οὐχ οὕτω νώτοισιν ἐβάστασε φόρτον ἔρωτος
79 ταῦρος ὅτ’ Εὐρώπην διὰ κύματος ἦγ’ ἐπὶ Κρήτην
80 ὡς μῦν ἁπλώσας ἐπινώτιον ἦγεν ἐς οἶκον
81 βάτραχος ὑψώσας ὠχρὸν δέμας ὕδατι λευκῷ.

Will these two be best friends forever?

The Battle of Frogs and Mice, Part 2: Once Upon a Time, A Frog Met a Mouse

An Illustration by Fred Gwynne from George Martin's "The Battle of Frogs and Mice, An Homeric Fable" (1962)
An Illustration by Fred Gwynne from George Martin’s “The Battle of Frogs and Mice, An Homeric Fable” (1962)

Here’s the second Installment of our translation of the Batrakhomuomakhia

Once upon a time, a thirsty mouse escaped the danger of a cat
and then lowered his greedy chin down to a pond                              10
To take pleasure in the honey-sweet water.  A pond-loving frog,
Bellowmouth, saw him and uttered something like this:

“Friend, who are you? From where have you come to our shore? Who sired you?
Tell me everything truly so I don’t think you’re a liar.
If I consider you a worthy friend, I’ll take you home,
where I will give you many fine gifts of friendship.
I am King Bellowmouth, and I am honored
throughout the pond as leader of frogs for all days.
My father Mudman raised me up after he had sex
with Watermistress along the banks of the Eridanus.                         20
I see that you are noble and brave beyond the rest,
and also a scepter-bearing king and a warrior in battles.
Come closer and tell me of your lineage.”

9 Μῦς ποτε διψαλέος γαλέης κίνδυνον ἀλύξας,
10 πλησίον ἐν λίμνῃ λίχνον προσέθηκε γένειον,
11 ὕδατι τερπόμενος μελιηδέϊ• τὸν δὲ κατεῖδε
12 λιμνόχαρις πολύφημος , ἔπος δ’ ἐφθέγξατο τοῖον•
13 Ξεῖνε τίς εἶ; πόθεν ἦλθες ἐπ’ ἠϊόνας; τίς ὁ φύσας;
14 πάντα δ’ ἀλήθευσον, μὴ ψευδόμενόν σε νοήσω.
15 εἰ γάρ σε γνοίην φίλον ἄξιον ἐς δόμον ἄξω•
16 δῶρα δέ τοι δώσω ξεινήϊα πολλὰ καὶ ἐσθλά.
17 εἰμὶ δ’ ἐγὼ βασιλεὺς Φυσίγναθος, ὃς κατὰ λίμνην
18 τιμῶμαι βατράχων ἡγούμενος ἤματα πάντα•
19 καί με πατὴρ Πηλεὺς ἀνεθρέψατο, ῾Υδρομεδούσῃ
20 μιχθεὶς ἐν φιλότητι παρ’ ὄχθας ᾿Ηριδανοῖο.
21 καὶ σὲ δ’ ὁρῶ καλόν τε καὶ ἄλκιμον ἔξοχον ἄλλων,
22 σκηπτοῦχον βασιλῆα καὶ ἐν πολέμοισι μαχητὴν
23 ἔμμεναι• ἀλλ’ ἄγε θᾶσσον ἑὴν γενεὴν ἀγόρευε.

The ‘Homeric’ War of Frogs and Mice, Part 1: The Proem (1-8)

As I begin from the first page, I pray that the chorus
comes from Helikon for the sake of the song
I have just set down on the tablets at my knees;
a song of limitless strife–the war-rousing work of Ares–
because I hope to send to the ears of all mortal men
how the mice went forth to best the frogs
in imitation of the deeds of the earth born men, the giants.
Or so the tale went among men. It has this kind of beginning.

1 ᾿Αρχόμενος πρώτης σελίδος χορὸν ἐξ ῾Ελικῶνος
2 ἐλθεῖν εἰς ἐμὸν ἦτορ ἐπεύχομαι εἵνεκ’ ἀοιδῆς
3 ἣν νέον ἐν δέλτοισιν ἐμοῖς ἐπὶ γούνασι θῆκα,
4 δῆριν ἀπειρεσίην, πολεμόκλονον ἔργον ῎Αρηος,
5 εὐχόμενος μερόπεσσιν ἐς οὔατα πᾶσι βαλέσθαι
6 πῶς μύες ἐν βατράχοισιν ἀριστεύσαντες ἔβησαν,
7 γηγενέων ἀνδρῶν μιμούμενοι ἔργα Γιγάντων,
8 ὡς λόγος ἐν θνητοῖσιν ἔην• τοίην δ’ ἔχεν ἀρχήν.

The Batrakhomuomakhia is a mock-epic from antiquity–dated variously from the late Archaic age to the Hellenistic period. Using a pastiche of Homeric style and surprising subject (a battle between tribes of frog and mice), this parody is at once highly ‘literary’ and baldly silly. Of course, we love it.

We love it so much that we’ve been working on the text, a translation, and something of a commentary.  Since we’re already having fun with other oddities and obscurities like the history of Apollonius of Tyre, it made sense to start putting some of the work on the Batrakhomuomakhia here.  Look for more fun as the friendship of a mouse and frog ends in a sudden tragedy compounded by an interspecies blood-feud and the callous machinations of the gods.

A limerick in the spirit of Palaiophron:

The Homeric Battle of Frogs and Mice
is not really Homer but it’s still quite nice.
You needn’t suffer to learn
that there’s kleos to earn
And you may find yourself reading it twice.

Batrakhomuomakhia, 170-171: A Monument to the Murder of Mice

During the assembly to face the murine-menace, the king of the frogs, Bellowmouth, announces his plan and his expected victory:

“As we drown those unaccustomed to the water in this way

We will happily dedicate a trophy to the murder of mice.”

οὕτω γὰρ πνίξαντες ἐν ὕδασι τοὺς ἀκολύμβους

στήσομεν εὐθύμως τὸ μυοκτόνον ὧδε τρόπαιον