Ancient Roman poem about a dog and two bones.

In Devo’s song Freedom of Choice there’s a part that goes, “In ancient Rome there was a poem about a dog who had two bones. He picked at one, he licked the other, he went in circles 'till he dropped dead.”

So… what is this poem? I’ve heard reference to it in other places, but for some reason I never caught the source material, or the author. I’ve been googling it, but it’s been fruitless. I’d like to know its original context. Ideally I’d like an English translation accompanied with the original Latin, but whatever anyone can dig up, I’d appreciate. Thanks.

I thought it was a reference to Aesop’s fable of the dog who, while carrying a bone, saw his reflection in the water, thought he was seeing another dog with a bone, and when he tried to steal that dog’s bone, he lost his own in the water.

The Aesop fable was also the first thing that came to my mind. There’s a version of it on this site. Scroll down to the fifteenth fable, entitled The Dog and the Shadow.

Pretty sure it was originally a Greek parable about a donkey between two bales of hay who starved, but since “Rome” and “Bone” more or less rhyme, there’s the lyric.

Mark Mothersbaugh knew what he was doing… it just wouldn’t sound right:

In ancient Greece
There was a parable
About a donkey
who found two bales ooooof haaay-ay.

Nah, it’s just not working right with the melody…

I guess Im five years too late on the thread…
The parable of the donkey, Buridan’s dilemna, concerns the philosophical concept of choice.
A donkey standing at equal distance of two identical bayles of hay cannot choose which one to feed from, and dies as a result. the parable shows us that reason cannot always help us to choose.
On the other hand, the parable of the dog with two bones concerns day to day wisdom: don’t be too greedy, and sometimes be content with what you already have.

These Google-searching, zombie-waking n00bs are quite the coming thing, aren’t they?

ETA: Welcome to the Straight Dope and all that.

It’s been 10 years now. Allow me to zombify this post further.

There was also a 6th-century Aesop’s fable called “The Dog and His Reflection.”
A dog was carrying a bone (or meat or cheese, depending on the retelling) and he saw his reflection in the river. His greed for the other bone caused him to lose the one he had. :smack:

You’re just repeating what’s in posts #2 and #3 above.

Myself, I thought of the fable about the donkey and two bales of hay that Slithy Tove refers to. That seems a much closer match to the description of the song.

Actually, he was making a point about free will. And Aristotle thought of it first.