By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Gem from Propertius

The final author on my reading list is the Roman poet Propertius (circa 50 B.C. to 15 B.C.), a friend of Vergil. Here is a gem by Propertius that I came across today. The translation is by A.S. Kline (whose website at the link below also has links to explanations of people and places mentioned in the poems or elegies):

Book III.21:1-34 Recipes for quenching love

I’m compelled to set out on the long route to learned Athens, so the journey’s distance might free me of love’s burden. For love for my girl grows with constant gazing: love offers itself as its greatest nourishment.

I’ve tried every way, by which love can be put to flight: but the god himself presses on every side. Still she’ll barely ever admit me, often denies me: or if she comes sleeps fully clothed at the edge of the bed. There’s only one solution: changing countries, love will travel as far from my mind, as Cynthia from my eyes.

Let’s go then, my friends, launch our ship on the sea, and draw lots in pairs for your turn at the oars. Hoist happy sails to the tops of the masts: now the wind favours the sailor’s watery path. Towers of Rome, and you, my friends, farewell, and farewell you too, girl, whatever you meant to me!

So now I’ll be carried off, the Adriatic’s untried guest, and now be forced to approach with prayers the gods of the sounding wave. Then when my boat has crossed the Ionian Sea and dropped its sails in Lechaeum’s placid waters, hurry feet, to endure the task that’s left, where the fields of the Isthmus keep back either sea. Then, where the shores of Piraeus’s harbour greet me, I’ll climb the long reaches of Theseus’ road.

There will I mend my soul in Plato’s School, or in your Gardens, learned Epicurus; or pursue Demosthenes’ weapon, the study of oratory; the salty wit of your books, learned Menander; or ornate pictures will captivate my eyes; or what hands have finished in ivory, or more frequently in bronze.

Either the passage of years, or the long spaces of the deep will heal the wounds in my silent breast: or if I die, fate will crush me, not shameful love: and the day of death will be an honour to me.

Source link.

I am sure not a few can identify with these lines even in our more mundane and less exotic lives.

(Public domain image below of Propertius and his beloved Cynthia)