By You, But Not For You

If you have wondered about the sic vos non vobis picture in the blog header …

The half-line of verse sic vos non vobis is the first half, repeated identically, of four verses wrongly attributed to Virgil:

Sic vos non vobis nidificatis aves As you, birds, build nests but not for yourselves
Sic vos non vobis vellera fertis oves As you, sheep, produce wool but not yourselves
Sic vos non vobis mellificatis apes As you, bees, produce honey but not for yourselves
Sic vos non vobis fertis aratra boves As you, oxen, pull the plough but not for yourselves

These lines appear in a fictional biography of Virgil, compiled by an unknown humanist in the 15th century (Donatus Auctus, §§68-70) according to which Virgil wrote the lines to unmask a second-rate poet, a certain Batillo, who appropriated a couplet written in honour of Augustus in the same way that men appropriate the work of animals. Hence, the half-line sic vos non vobis became proverbial as a way to stigmatise plagiarists and, in general, those who exploit the work of others.

But this rational meaning was later inverted to praise the supposed selfless dedication with which the animals would work for humans. And it was apparently with this later misleading sense in mind that the half-line was written here, at the inauguration of the fountain in 1923, to praise the generosity of the fountain which poured water for others.

[Translated from the notes by Oreste Tappi, teacher at the Libera Università di Città della Pieve, posted next to the water fountain]


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