Translation Thread: Propertius I.3

By Cato, in 'Reading Latin', Sep 7, 2007.

  1. Cato Consularis

    • Consularis
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Next chunk:

    donec diversas praecurrens luna fenestras,
    ...luna moraturis sedula luminibus,
    compositos levibus radiis patefecit ocellos.
    ...sic ait in molli fixa toro cubitum:
    'tandem te nostro referens iniuria lecto (35)
    ...alterius clausis expulit e foribus?
    namque ubi longa meae consumpsti tempora noctis,
    ...languidus exactis, ei mihi, sideribus?

    moraturis is a little tricky IMO; perhaps it's closer to "constant" than "delay"?
    cubitum has to be her elbow, greek accusative after fixa; she's awake now.
    iniuria often in the elegists refers specifically to infidelity
    consumpsti = consumpisti, a repeat of the dixti ending from earlier.
    ei mihi is clearly an interjection (Perseus agrees), but I wonder if you could also construe mihi with languidus. Shakespeare's famous line about alcohol seems apt: "It provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance" (Macbeth II.3)
  2. QMF Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Virginia, US
    I haven't had a chance to take a crack at this, but I figured I'd pop in for this chunk (I liked how the first two lines flowed on a first reading):
    Until the moon, running past different windows,
    The moon, painstaking with constant light (eyes?)
    Opened up the peaceful little eyes with its soft rays.
    Thus spoke [Cynthia], held at her elbow* on the soft bed:
    "[Has? Is this a question?] At last the injustice, bearing you back to our bed, [has, if this is not a question per se then the has would be here instead] expelled you out of the closed doors of the "other"?
    For when you have consumed** the long times of my night
    The stars expelled, will you be, woe is me, weak?

    *I know that's kind of loose, but we have a lack of an equivalent for such constructions in English.
    **This seems almost like it should be future perfect, hence how I built the construction.

    I find it particularly interesting to look at when the Romans would say "ei mihi", and found this as a comparison:
    ei mihi, qualis erat, quantum mutatus ab illo
    Hectore qui redit exuuias indutus Achilli
    uel Danaum Phrygios iaculatus puppibus ignis!
    (Aeneid 2.274-276)
    I found another with crtl+f, this one I'm not familiar with however:
    ...ei mihi quantum
    praesidium, Ausonia, et quantum tu perdis, Iule!
    (Aeneid 11.57-58)
  3. Cato Consularis

    • Consularis
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    I think you have the basic meaning Qmf. For diversas...fenestras "different windows" works well. I initially thogught the diversus here refers to the shutters being "separated", but now prefer your idea that the moon is running by one window after another on its nightly course.

    Regarding Cynthia's speech, hers is a rhetorical question, so I think you're right in placing "has" first.

    One other point: Your translation is accurate, but I think it misses the emphasis of the words Cynthia uses. Tandem, for example, is literally "at last", but I wonder if a phrase like "So finally" captures Cynthia's obvious exasperation better (do you think she fell asleep waiting up for him? :) ). I also think the meae in line 37 is emphatic: "for sure, while you have wasted lobng periods of a night which belongs to me."

    The citations from the Aeneid are neat; they show how ei is an expression similar to "alas", i.e. not as strongly personal as vae.

    Sorry, my own Cynthia is calling me to watch the rest of the Cubs game; excuse my abrupt exit...
  4. Cato Consularis

    • Consularis
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    ...and Ryan Dempster serves up another blown save in extras, dropping the Cubs a game out of first. Tanta injuria.

    I mentioned in the notes that injuria is often used by the elegists to mean specifically infidelity, kind of like the way we use the otherwise-inocuous word "affair" to mean a sexual tryst. Catullus' poem 72 is a good example. Here, Catullus notes how he used to believe Lesbia's claims that "not even Jove could be a better lover" than him. But as he got to know her for the flirt (a kind word) she was, he suprisingly grew even more passionate (impensius uror). How is this possible?

    Quod amantem iniuria talis
    ...cogit amare magis, sed bene velle minus.

    "...Because such injuria drives the lover
    to love more, but esteem less."
  5. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    Just as, with Theseus' ship departing thence,
    upon the desert coast the tired girl
    from Gnossos lay; just as Andromeda,
    the Cepheus-sired, in her first sleep once freed
    from those harsh stones did lie, no whit
    less weary than the daylong dancer of
    the Edon rites; just as she threw her down
    upon the greenery, in Thessaly,
    by Apidanus' bank; just so to me
    seemed Cynthia to breathe soft silence, with
    her head uncertainly supported by
    her hands, when I'd drag in my drunken feet,
    with lots of Bacchus burdened, bumbling, and
    the boys would shake the torch, late in the night.

    Not yet entirely deprived of all
    sensation, softly I attempt to come
    to her, with but light pressure on our bed.
    By Bacchus on the one side and by Love
    himself upon the other, two hard gods,
    by double ardor seized, I might have been
    bidden to try, easy my arm beneath
    her now, to take some kisses, and to bear
    my weapon forward in my other hand.
    But I had not the daring to disturb
    my darling's rest; much fearing all her fierce
    and skillful vitriol. Yet did I fix
    my gaze intent upon my mistress' form,
    as Argos many-eyed of old did watch
    those eldritch horns Inachus' daughter bore.

    And when I loosed the garland from my brow
    and placed it, Cynthia, upon thy head;
    and when I joyed to take thy fallen hair,
    and give it form again; when furtive fruits
    I'd give to thee, all empty-handed, dear;
    all favors lavished on ungrateful sleep;
    which favors often and again would find
    themselves enveloped in thy pendant breasts:
    then whensoever thou didst draw a breath
    more deep than most: then I, struck stupid by
    such empty auspices, would think, in fear,
    that unaccustomed terrors had been borne
    to thee by visions; or that someone might
    have forced thee, all unwilling, to be his.

    Until the faithful moon, running her course
    one window to the next, pausing to cast
    a little light through each, doth touch
    with her soft rays thy placid eyes...


    This next line is odd. I think I know exactly what it means. But I certainly do not understand either its scansion or its grammar. I'm going to post what I've got so far (my connection is acting up again, and I don't want to lose it), and work awhile off-line.
  6. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    ...sic ait in molli fixa toro cubitum:

    OK, it seems that ait is a disyllable, with the first being sometimes long and sometimes short. We want it short; reading it so we have:

    XOO XX X || X[a]O XOO O

    OK, it scans if the a in fixa is short. So fixa might be a feminine singular nominative ("the female person established in the soft bed") or a neuter plural nominative or accusative (fittings). I don't see how it can modify cubitum, which if it is a noun, must be neuter and singular. Could cubitum be a supine? In theory, but I don't see how the accusative supine fits in here. There is no verb of motion.

    It seems as if cubitum must be a sort of adverb here meaning "on the elbow". But why not use cubito; that last vowel could just as easily be long, right? Right, I should have listened to Cato to begin with; it's a Greek accusative-- I should have known right away; it is after all a body part.

    (Once again I'm leaving my mutterings in the post, as an exercise in humility).
  7. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    Just as, with Theseus' ship departing thence,
    upon the desert coast the tired girl
    from Gnossos lay; just as Andromeda,
    the Cepheus-sired, in her first sleep once freed
    from those harsh stones did lie, no whit
    less weary than the daylong dancer of
    the Edon rites; just as she threw her down
    upon the greenery, in Thessaly,
    by Apidanus' bank; just so to me
    seemed Cynthia to breathe soft silence, with
    her head uncertainly supported by
    her hands, when I'd drag in my drunken feet,
    with lots of Bacchus burdened, bumbling, and
    the boys would shake the torch, late in the night.

    Not yet entirely deprived of all
    sensation, softly I attempt to come
    to her, with but light pressure on our bed.
    By Bacchus on the one side and by Love
    himself upon the other, two hard gods,
    by double ardor seized, I might have been
    bidden to try, easy my arm beneath
    her now, to take some kisses, and to bear
    my weapon forward in my other hand.
    But I had not the daring to disturb
    my darling's rest; much fearing all her fierce
    and skillful vitriol. Yet did I fix
    my gaze intent upon my mistress' form,
    as Argos many-eyed of old did watch
    those eldritch horns Inachus' daughter bore.

    And when I loosed the garland from my brow
    and placed it, Cynthia, upon thy head;
    and when I joyed to take thy fallen hair,
    and give it form again; when furtive fruits
    I'd give to thee, all empty-handed; these
    my favors lavished on ungrateful sleep,
    which favors often and again would find
    themselves enveloped in thy pendant breasts:
    then whensoever thou didst draw a breath
    more deep than most: then I, struck stupid by
    such empty auspices, would think, in fear,
    that unaccustomed terrors had been borne
    to thee by visions; or that someone might
    have forced thee, all unwilling, to be his.

    Until the faithful moon, running its course
    one window to the next, pausing to cast
    a little light through each, doth touch
    with its soft rays her placid eyes; and propped
    upon her elbow in the bed she speaks:
    "So finally you're back? I tell you you're
    an insult to our bed! What? did she throw
    you out and slam the door? Just where the hell
    were you, I'd like to know, pissing away
    the hours of my night; and moving no
    more swiftly than the stars. Aw, shit!"
  8. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    I want to make it clear (to any who may be following this thread without much ability to read the original) that these abrupt changes of voice are not mine. I am deliberately trying to imitate what I hear in the Latin, which is most emphatically not a unity of voice. The poet seems to me to switch (with more grace than I fear I have been able to muster in the English) among elegant mythological reference, delicate personal narrative, crude burlesque, and now vituperation, all within the steadying framework of his elegiacs.

    I admit, of course, that I may be misunderstanding the thing entirely.
  9. Cato Consularis

    • Consularis
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    The abrupt change in tone starting with Cynthia's speech is warranted, and I think justifies the somewhat liberal translation. However I wanted to ask about languidus exactis...sideribus, which you translate as "moving no more swiftly than the stars."

    I did not at first link the two--I took exactis...sideribus as an abl. abs./attendant circumstance indicating that its so late even the stars are just about "driven out" (by the coming sun) or "used up". The problem with this interpretation is that it isn't that late--we read about the boys carrying torches before sera nocte, but I'd chalk that up to natural exaggeration.

    However, exactis can also mean something like "measured, considered", so I wonder if there is an implicit comparison, i.e. "sluggish with the stars having been considered." -> "sluggish in comparison to the stars" -> "moving no more swiftly than the stars". Was this your thinking?
  10. Cato Consularis

    • Consularis
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Last chunk; Cynthia continues her harangue:

    o utinam talis perducas, improbe, noctes,
    me miseram qualis semper habere iubes! (40)
    nam modo purpureo fallebam stamine somnum,
    rursus et Orpheae carmine, fessa, lyrae;
    interdum leviter mecum deserta querebar
    externo longas saepe in amore moras:
    dum me iucundis lassam Sopor impulit alis. (45)
    illa fuit lacrimis ultima cura meis.'

    improbe is vocative.
    modo - "just recently"; the following lines describe things Cynthia was doing to stay awake until Prop. returned home.
    externo goes with amore; the position emphasizes the word, and although longas...moras is the object of querebar, this is the real reason.
    cura by a stretch might be better rendered "thought".
  11. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    [quote="Cato However I wanted to ask about languidus exactis...sideribus, which you translate as "moving no more swiftly than the stars."

    I did not at first link the two--I took exactis...sideribus as an abl. abs./attendant circumstance indicating that its so late even the stars are just about "driven out" (by the coming sun) or "used up". The problem with this interpretation is that it isn't that late--we read about the boys carrying torches before sera nocte, but I'd chalk that up to natural exaggeration.

    However, exactis can also mean something like "measured, considered", so I wonder if there is an implicit comparison, i.e. "sluggish with the stars having been considered." -> "sluggish in comparison to the stars" -> "moving no more swiftly than the stars". Was this your thinking?[/quote]

    To call my mental processes here "thinking" is excessively kind.

    I have to confess that until your post the idea that exactus might be a participle of exigo simply had not occured to me; I read it (as you surmise) as an adjective meaning "exact, scrupulous, or precise" (of course I should have looked it up).

    So I thought she was upbraiding him for being "slow as the careful stars".

    I don't think that the fact that it is not really dawn puts your first interpretation ("slow, the stars being driven out") out of court at all. It is after all Cynthia who is speaking, and of course she would exaggerate, as people so often do when they are yelling at a spouse or lover.

    But on reflection, I still see "slow as the careful stars" as the more natural reading. Languidus has to refer to Propertius. It's not vocative, which would be languide. She seems to be describing him to his face, with an implied copulative: languidus [es]. So I have no problem with omitting a quam here. But if she is saying "you're so slow that the stars have been driven away" would we not expect a "tam...ut" or some such construction?

    Seeing the stars as slow may seem a strange conceit to us, but the Roman night was less well lit, and they looked at the sky more.

    Still, I freely acknowledge that I could be completely out to lunch on this point. What is your opinion?
  12. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    o utinam talis perducas, improbe, noctes,
    me miseram qualis semper habere iubes! (40)
    nam modo purpureo fallebam stamine somnum,
    rursus et Orpheae carmine, fessa, lyrae;
    interdum leviter mecum deserta querebar
    externo longas saepe in amore moras:
    dum me iucundis lassam Sopor impulit alis. (45)
    illa fuit lacrimis ultima cura meis.'


    Wow. This isn't getting any easier, is it?

    "Oh, I wish that thou shouldst pass such nights, improper one,
    as you decree forever should be mine, unhappy me!
    For just now by a purple warp I was eluding sleep,
    again, tired, and by a song of Orpheus lyre..."

    Oh, I get it, I think: "by a shining string, a song from Orpheus lyre". She was singing to herself to avert sleep. It appears that it is now Cynthia who (in a shift from her antecedent voice) is employing elaborate mythology-based figures.

    "Betimes making a little plaint, lonely /deserted,
    On the long delays ever in love..."

    I don't understand that externo. Could it be exsterno, "I affright"? No, that doesn't make sense either. Perhaps "on the long delays in absent love"?

    "When sleep struck my tired self with other (alis = aliis?) pleasures"?

    No. Alis is attested as = aliis, but it is far more likely here to be the ablative plural of ala: "when deep sleep struck me with pleasant wings".

    Illa-- apparently Sopor is seen here as feminine? The noun is masculine in form, and in Glare, and in Lewis-&-Short. I notice that someone at some point has capitalized it, so I suppose that we are dealing with a personifcation, here seen as feminine.

    "She was the final cure of my tears".

    Is there a sort of threat here? Sopor can mean "sleeping-draught", but then it should be masculine, I think. But if I were Cynthia's boyfriend, and wanted to remain so, I would like that ultima even less that the rest of what she's said.

    I need to take a little nap-- work kept me up much of the night. But then I'll try to reduce this to English iambs (wait for it), going from bed to verse.
  13. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    Just as, with Theseus' ship departing thence,
    upon the desert coast the tired girl
    from Gnossos lay; just as Andromeda,
    the Cepheus-sired, in her first sleep once freed
    from those harsh stones did lie, no whit
    less weary than the daylong dancer of
    the Edon rites; just as she threw her down
    upon the greenery, in Thessaly,
    by Apidanus' bank; just so to me
    seemed Cynthia to breathe soft silence, with
    her head uncertainly supported by
    her hands, when I'd drag in my drunken feet,
    with lots of Bacchus burdened, bumbling, and
    the boys would shake the torch, late in the night.

    Not yet entirely deprived of all
    sensation, softly I attempt to come
    to her, with but light pressure on our bed.
    By Bacchus on the one side and by Love
    himself upon the other, two hard gods,
    by double ardor seized, I might have been
    bidden to try, easy my arm beneath
    her now, to take some kisses, and to bear
    my weapon forward in my other hand.
    But I had not the daring to disturb
    my darling's rest; much fearing all her fierce
    and skillful vitriol. Yet did I fix
    my gaze intent upon my mistress' form,
    as Argos many-eyed of old did watch
    those eldritch horns Inachus' daughter bore.

    And when I loosed the garland from my brow
    and placed it, Cynthia, upon thy head;
    and when I joyed to take thy fallen hair,
    and give it form again; when furtive fruits
    I'd give thee, empty-handed, and all these
    my favors lavished on ungrateful sleep,
    which favors often and again would find
    themselves enveloped in thy pendant breasts:
    then whensoever thou didst draw a breath
    more deep than most: then I, struck stupid by
    such empty auspices, would think, in fear,
    that unaccustomed terrors had been borne
    to thee by visions; or that someone might
    have forced thee, all unwilling, to be his.

    Until the faithful moon, running its course
    one window to the next, pausing to cast
    a little light through each, doth touch
    with its soft rays her placid eyes; and propped
    upon her elbow in the bed she speaks:
    "So finally you're back? I tell you you're
    an insult to our bed! What? did she throw
    you out and slam the door? Just where the hell
    were you, I'd like to know, pissing away
    the hours of my night; and moving no
    more swiftly than the stars. Aw, shit!
    You have no shame. I only wish that you
    should spend some nights just like the ones that you
    inflict on me, unhappy Cynthia.

    "Just now I was eluding sleep with song
    again, a shining string from Orpheus' lyre,
    a lonely and deserted little plaint,
    upon the frequent and prolonged delays
    of absent love; I was exhausted. Then
    did Sopor strike me with her happy wings;
    she was the final cure of all my tears".

    *******************************************************

    I don't think this is terrible. But I do think that there are still some major unresolved issues:

    1. This is a translation of what has been called the "Oxford text", with incertis for concertis, and with et arma for tarda. I have no access to this text. Does it contain, kmp or anyone, other variations from the text originally posted by Cato? Are there any reasons (external to the texts themselves) for preferring one version over the other? If there are no other variants, and no cogent reasons for preferring the Oxford text, we can (and perhaps should) I think, produce another translation, this one of what I will call Cato's text.

    2. The mystery of the poma remains a mystery. The present translation attempts to preserve a perceived ambiguity between the an "actual-fruit" scenario and a "carresses" scenario. But no one seems very confident that we have fully understood this passage; certainly I am not. Can anyone cast any further light on this?

    3. We are also, it seems, unsure about the exactis sideribus. Is Cynthia saying that Propertius has been moving as slowly as the stars, or is she saying that he is slow, and the stars have been driven away? The question has little bearing on the general sense of the piece, but it would be nice to feel more certain that we had correctly rendered Propertius' figure into English.
  14. Cato Consularis

    • Consularis
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    I ran down a few popular translations of the passage in question; it might be interesting to see what others have done with this, and to have some insight on the subtleties of translation

    First, text of lines 24-26from the on-line Latin Library:
    David Slavitt, "Propertius in Love: The Elegies" Univ. of Cal. Press (2002) (Classicist, member of American Academy of Poets):
    Vincent Katz, "The Complete Elegies of Sextus Propertius" Princeton University Press (2004); (Winner of the 2005 National translation Award, American Literary Translators Association)
    A.S. Kline "Poetry in Translation" website:
    John Corelis, "Roman Erotic Elegy" website:
    Everyone seems to agree on there being actual, physical apples, but the surrounding details differ. Slavitt and Cline, for example, have prono..sinu referring to Propertius' own bent/leaning body, while Katz and Corelis think the apples are falling from Cynthia's "danging/curving breast".

    I'm not including these to support any one interpretation; I just find it interesting that they are measurably different translations of the same Latin lines. [/quote]
  15. Cato Consularis

    • Consularis
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    I think externo refers to the amore Cythia implies her lover is getting "outside the house", i.e. the alterius in line 35.
    Illa, I think, goes with cura; careful, this word does not mean "cure", but rather "care". I suggested "thought", as I believe illa ultima cura refers to the thought expressed in lines 43-44: The last thing in her mind before falling asleep was her lover's infidelity.
  16. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    1. Well, I feel better about those poma now. It seems we're not the first to have puzzled over this, and I'm inclined to think that our solution may be the best so far.

    2. On the purpureo stamine: I did first read "purple warp", but too quickly decided that Cynthia was talking about a lyre-string as a figure for a song; here I definitively jumped too quickly from a literal to a figurative interpretation (as I may have done with the poma as well).

    3. Boy, I really put those last few lines in my ear. Thanks for straightening me out, Cato. This reflects back on what (it is now clear) was an earlier mistake on my part, about the languidus exactis... sideribus. The key to my mistake was seeing languidus as "slow" (although it can sometimes mean this). Cynthia is upbraiding the poet (in the line in question) not primarily for being late, but for coming home "enfeebled" (the first meaning listed by Glare for languidus) and also for "lacking rigidity, drooping" (the second meaning given). This in turn ties in with the externo that gave me trouble... it would appear that she is indeed concerned about "a stranger's love".

    4. So where does that leave us?

    (Oxford Version)

    Just as, with Theseus' ship departing thence,
    upon the desert coast the tired girl
    from Gnossos lay; just as Andromeda,
    the Cepheus-sired, in her first sleep once freed
    from those harsh stones did lie, no whit
    less weary than the daylong dancer of
    the Edon rites; just as she threw her down
    upon the greenery, in Thessaly,
    by Apidanus' bank; just so to me
    seemed Cynthia to breathe soft silence, with
    her head uncertainly supported by
    her hands, when I'd drag in my drunken feet,
    with lots of Bacchus burdened, bumbling, and
    the boys would shake the torch, late in the night.

    Not yet entirely deprived of all
    sensation, softly I attempt to come
    to her, with but light pressure on our bed.
    By Bacchus on the one side and by Love
    himself upon the other, two hard gods,
    by double ardor seized, I might have been
    bidden to try, easy my arm beneath
    her now, to take some kisses, and to bear
    my weapon forward in my other hand.
    But I had not the daring to disturb
    my darling's rest; much fearing all her fierce
    and skillful vitriol. Yet did I fix
    my gaze intent upon my mistress' form,
    as Argos many-eyed of old did watch
    those eldritch horns Inachus' daughter bore.

    And when I loosed the garland from my brow
    and placed it, Cynthia, upon thy head;
    and when I joyed to take thy fallen hair,
    and give it form again; when furtive fruits
    I'd give thee, empty-handed, and all these
    my favors lavished on ungrateful sleep,
    which favors often and again would find
    themselves enveloped in thy pendant breasts:
    then whensoever thou didst draw a breath
    more deep than most: then I, struck stupid by
    such empty auspices, would think, in fear,
    that unaccustomed terrors had been borne
    to thee by visions; or that someone might
    have forced thee, all unwilling, to be his.

    Until the faithful moon, running its course
    one window to the next, pausing to cast
    a little light through each, doth touch
    with its soft rays her placid eyes; and propped
    upon her elbow in the bed she speaks:
    "So finally you're back? I tell you you're
    an insult to our bed! What? did she throw
    you out and slam the door? Just where the hell
    were you, I'd like to know, pissing away
    the hours of my night; and coming here,
    enfeebled, wasted, drooping, now that all
    the stars have faded. Shit! You have no shame.
    I only hope that you will have to spend
    some weary nights like these that always you
    inflict on me, unhappy Cynthia.

    "Just now I was eluding sleep with work
    upon my warp of purple weaving; and
    again, whiling my weariness with song
    and warding slumber off with Orphean lyre:
    a lonely and deserted little plaint
    upon the frequent and prolonged delays
    of love that's busy with a stranger. Then
    did Sopor strike me with his happy wings;
    but at the last I wept, thinking of her."
  17. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    (Latin Library Version)

    Just as, with Theseus' ship departing thence,
    upon the desert coast the tired girl
    from Gnossos lay; just as Andromeda,
    the Cepheus-sired, in her first sleep once freed
    from those harsh stones did lie, no whit
    less weary than the daylong dancer of
    the Edon rites; just as she threw her down
    upon the greenery, in Thessaly,
    by Apidanus' bank; just so to me
    seemed Cynthia to breathe soft silence, with
    her head supported by her two clasped hands,
    when I would drag my drunken feet back in,
    with lots of Bacchus burdened, bumbling, and
    the boys would shake the torch, late in the night.

    Not yet entirely deprived of all
    sensation, softly I attempt to come
    to her, with but light pressure on our bed.
    By Bacchus on the one side and by Love
    himself upon the other, two hard gods,
    by double ardor seized, I might have been
    bidden to try, easy my arm beneath
    her now, to take some kisses, and to bring
    my hand forward as well, to press against
    her; but I lacked the daring to disturb
    my darling's rest; much fearing all her fierce
    and skillful vitriol. Yet did I fix
    my gaze intent upon my mistress' form,
    as Argos many-eyed of old did watch
    those eldritch horns Inachus' daughter bore.

    And when I loosed the garland from my brow
    and placed it, Cynthia, upon thy head;
    and when I joyed to take thy fallen hair,
    and give it form again; when furtive fruits
    I'd give thee, empty-handed, and all these
    my favors lavished on ungrateful sleep,
    which favors often and again would find
    themselves enveloped in thy pendant breasts:
    then whensoever thou didst draw a breath
    more deep than most: then I, struck stupid by
    such empty auspices, would think, in fear,
    that unaccustomed terrors had been borne
    to thee by visions; or that someone might
    have forced thee, all unwilling, to be his.

    Until the faithful moon, running its course
    one window to the next, pausing to cast
    a little light through each, doth touch
    with its soft rays her placid eyes; and propped
    upon her elbow in the bed she speaks:
    "So finally you're back? I tell you you're
    an insult to our bed! What? did she throw
    you out and slam the door? Just where the hell
    were you, I'd like to know, pissing away
    the hours of my night; and coming here,
    enfeebled, wasted, drooping, now that all
    the stars have faded. Shit! You have no shame.
    I only hope that you will have to spend
    some weary nights like these that always you
    inflict on me, unhappy Cynthia.

    "Just now I was eluding sleep with work
    upon my warp of purple weaving; and
    again, whiling my weariness with song
    and warding slumber off with Orphean lyre:
    a lonely and deserted little plaint
    upon the frequent and prolonged delays
    of love that's busy with a stranger. Then
    did Sopor strike me with his happy wings;
    but at the last I wept, thinking of her."
  18. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    In general I am not impressed with Corelis' English verses. But I do like his "random hands". (I'm too proud to steal them, though).
  19. kmp Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    England
    For yet another take on this poem, here's A. E. Watts in the Penguin Classics The Poems of Propertius:

    I tried, my senses not being wholly gone,
    To reach the bed she pressed so lightly on.
    Doubly inflamed, and urged, that side and this,
    By Love and Wine, two drastic deities,
    To slip an arm beneath the sleeper's back,
    To hold her, press her lips, and press the attack ...

    ...

    At last I loosed the chaplet from my head,
    And set the flowers on Cynthia's brows instead:
    Then put in place – with what delight! - the strands
    Of straying hair; then cupping cautious hands
    Gave apples, stealthy gifts, which one and all
    Ungrateful slumber from her breast let fall.


    Interestingly, Mr Watts discusses some of the problems with this poem in his introduction:

    The words et arma (and arms) are marked as suspect by the Oxford text, which record five conjectural emendations. Scaliger's suggestion tarda (slow), which Butler and Barber describe as the only plausible correction, does not appear amongst these. The note of Butler and Barber on sumere et arma is '... an almost impossibly harsh zeugma with oscula, while in this context arma is obsure, the only possible explanation being that kisses are the first skirmish in love's warfare'. Dr Shackleton Bailey is prepared to accept the zeugma as such, but says that arma in the required sense is incredibly abrupt. Two more recent commentators both think the reading can be kept and explained, though their interpretations differ. Mr Camps in his edition of Book One (1963) translates: ' to steal a kiss and venture a caress'. Mr Allen (Critical Essays p. 133), with much more drastic intention, gives: ' to take kisses and weapons in hand'. This has the merit of preserving the zeugma, but I confess I do not see how kisses can be taken in hand. The question here is: to what is the hand of the aggressive lover 'moved up' or 'brought near'? I answer with some confidence: to the girl's breast, to assist in holding her, and to control her hands, when she tries to push her too ardent lover away.

    Finally Mr Watts gives his own interpretation as ' to take kisses and the offensive'.

    My own comments :

    Firstly, Mr Watts clearly thinks molliter impresso lecto refers to Cynthia lightly lying on the bed. I like this reading.

    Secondly, Mr Watts believes in the physical reality of the apples. When I read his translation years ago, I never for a moment imagined that there could be a double-meaning here. After this thread, I think the apples are more problematic. Where do they come from? I always imagined the poet took them from a nearby fruit bowl – but if this is Cynthia's house then it's not much of a present to give her her own fruit. (Of course, she could be sleeping in Propertius' house – even so it's an odd thing to do).

    I think a double-meaning cannot be ruled out – but the whole business of the gifts rolling off Cynthia's lap seems to point unequivocally to them being real apples.

    As an aside, let me add that I think the “dangling breasts” of Vincent Katz quoted by Cato is a most unhappy and poor phrase. How unerotic can you get?

    Finally, I think that anyone who has followed this thread now knows more about this particular love elegy than anyone outside a Classics department (and many inside, I suspect). :)
  20. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    Thank you kmp. So it appears that the tarda is after all a late emendation, and that the et arma version is as close as we are likely to get to the original.

    I had recognized the ambiguity in the molliter impresso lecto. As so often with ablative absolutes, we are tempted, in order to achieve natural-sounding English, to be more definite than the Latin really will allow. We are told that the bed is lightly impressed; we are not really told by whom. Let me see if I can make the English a little less definite...

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