Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Propertius in Love: Elegy

Sextus Propertius (c.50 - c.16 B.C.) was a Roman elegiac poet in Maecenas' circle.

She'll stay! She has promised she's not going anywhere. Envy bursts

like a bubble. We win! How could she not yield

to my constant pleading? My torment of jealous rage and lust

is suddenly eased, as those pictures that flashed in my mind

fade away, for my Cynthia's wanderlust is forgotten.

She loves me again. Or still. And her favorite city

is Rome, which she wouldn't think of leaving. And I am here,

and without my love she wouldn't accept a kingdom.

Our room and our narrow bed are enough. For richer, for poorer,

she's pledged allegiance to me and salutes the flag.

If she were offered the dowry Hippodamia's suitors

strived for, she'd turn it down. What would she want

with all the wealth of Homer's "horse-pasturing Elis"?

He offered a lot, and was probably willing to sweeten

the pot, but as it turned out she couldn't be tempted by greed.

She stays in Rome, with me. We're together again.

It isn't gold she wants, or lustrous Indian pearls

but the praise of my verses for which she's developed a taste.

So the Muses aren't a myth, and the gods exist, and Apollo

will help a lover. In these I have put my faith.

Cynthia's mine, and in joy I can soar as high as the heaven's

starlit ballroom to dance there. Night and day,

I am the one. No rival will ever steal her away.

When my hair turns white, I'll still be boasting of this.

Sextus Propertius, Propertius in Love, The Elegies, translated
by David R. Slavitt, University of California Press, 2002