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