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Critical Appreciations I: Propertius iii. 10

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2009


As the first in what is hoped to be a continuing series, the editors of Greece & Rome have invited two contributors to attempt a critical appreciation of Propertius iii. 10. The contributors were asked to present their opinions independently and no ‘rules’ were laid down by the editors. It is our intention to publish from time to time further exercises of this type.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 1973

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page 39 note 1 It is interesting to contrast a rich use of the motif in Hor. Odes iv. 11Google Scholar with the lack of exploitation of it (in the main) in [Tib.] iii. 11 and 12.

page 39 note 2 Cf. e.g. Eur. Hipp. 525–6 with Barrett's note, Hor. Odes 1. 36. 17 with Nisbet–Hubbard's note. Cf. also the phrases cited by Brandt on Ovid, Am. ii. 19. 19.

page 40 note 1 Because the phrase is ‘unusual’ (Bailey, D. R. Shackleton, Propertiana [Cambridge, 1956], 301)Google Scholar, I would maintain a personification is suggested. Only after this is appreciated does a gloss like Camps's (Propertius, Elegies Book iii [Cambridge, 1966], ad loc.) become useful. Cf. below, p. 42 n. 1.

page 40 note 2 Cf. ii. 29A.

page 40 note 3 See Pichon, R., De Sermone Amatorio apud Latinos Elegiarum Scriptores (Paris, 1902), 132 f.Google Scholar–or simply Phillimore, 's Index Verborum Propertianus (Oxford, 1905), s.v.Google Scholar

page 41 note 1 Cf. e.g. Cat. lxv. 12 ff., ‘semper maesta tua carmina morte canam / qualia … concinit … / Daulias, absumpti fata gemens Ityli’; Ovid, Met. vi. 310 ff., [Niobe] ‘flet tamen et… / in patriam rapta est; ubi fixa cacumine mentis / liquitur, et lacrimas etiam mine marmora manant’. Contrast Call. ii. 17 ff.; but this Hymn is for a divine epiphany, and the ‘divinity’ of Cynthia is at best precarious.

page 41 note 2 Lacrimae and querelae have a particularly jarring resonance for the same reason that dolentis stood out (cf. Pichon, op. cit. 181 f. and 248 f.; or again Phillimore, s.vv.).

page 41 note 3 Cf. e.g. Anth. Pal. xii. 157 (Meleager). Further references can be found in F. Solmsen's article mentioned below.

page 41 note 4 My allusions to this complex poem are necessarily rather bare. There are some good remarks in Solmsen, , ‘Three Elegies of Propertius' First Book’, C Ph lvii (1962), 7388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

page 41 note 5 He uses the word to typify what the lover has to bear from his mistress: cf. i. 7. 12, i. 10. 26, ii. 25. 18 etc., and Pichon, op. cit. 202.

page 41 note 6 Minax is read by Camps and the majority of editors. There is further support for minas in Shackleton Bailey.

page 41 note 7 Fully documented (if documentation is needed) in Pichon, op. cit. 204–6.

page 42 note 1 Felicibus edita pennis is in the same danger as sole rubente. A note on it like Camps's is true enough and valuable; so long as the reader has also responded before he analyses–to the delight of what the poet actually says.

page 42 note 2 See Shackleton Bailey on iii. . 17; he also explains the syntax of poscentis iusta precare.

page 42 note 3 See Butler-Barber, , The Elegies of Propertius (Oxford, 1933)Google Scholar, and Shackleton Bailey, ad loc., who compare Virg. Aen. viii. 68 ff. Cf. too Ausonius' words to his slave on getting up and wishing to pray (ii. 2, Loeb vol. II, p. 14): ‘da, quidquid est, amictui / quod iam parasti, ut prodeam. / da rore fontano abluam / manus et os et lumina. / pateatque, fac, sacrarium …’

page 42 note 4 Carcopino, J., Daily Life in Ancient Rome (London, 1941), 167 f.Google Scholar; Balsdon, J. P. V. D., Roman Women (London, 1962), 255 ff.Google Scholar

page 42 note 5 Something of the sort I take to be implied in presso pollice (14). To say that pollice ‘evidently stands by a metonymy (and as a collective singular) for “fingers”’ misrepresents, I think, the effect.

page 42 note 6 To re-read i. 2 is illuminating.

page 43 note 1 In i. 2 for instance; in another form in i. 3–as I read the poem at any rate (Proc. Cam. Phil. Soc. N.S. xvi [1970], 6078).Google Scholar

page 43 note 2 Barber (in his O.C.T. apparatus) suggests putting 17–18 after 12. Others have even wished to expel the couplet (it is accidentally omitted in N): see Shackleton Bailey, ad loc.

page 43 note 3 A good start is to look up imagery, sub-heading flower, in the index to Bowra, C. M., Pindar (Oxford, 1964).Google Scholar

page 43 note 4 Cf. Cat. xi. 23.

page 44 note 1 Rothstein, , Propertius Sextus Elegien 2 (Berlin, 1920)Google Scholar, ad loc., gives some parallels for such ritual on birthdays.

page 44 note 2 Contrast the situation in Cat. v.

page 44 note 3 The striking nature of the language (cf. Tränkle, H., Die Sprachkunst des Properz u. die Tradition der lateinischen Dichtersprache [Wiesbaden, 1960], 116)Google Scholar militates against the phrase's being passed over as a mere ‘façon de parler’.

page 44 note 4 Catullus catches, and fuses, these two areas of association in nox in his nox est perpetua una dormienda.

page 45 note 1 See further Shackleton Bailey, ad loc. But grauibus is far from impossible. There are after all other people present (choreis), so nobis could—though it would be clumsy—refer to a larger group than Propertius and Cynthia alone, which at first sight seems necessary to give much sense to grauibus; however, see also Rothstein, ad loc. But either way, while the dicing would still take the intensity out of love, it would not be explicitly from their love, which is most to the point.

page 45 note 2 No exact parallel for such dicing is known: see Shackleton Bailey, Rothstein, ad loc. But the atmosphere is reminiscent of, say, Call. Ep. 43–or Hor. Odes i. 27. 10 ffGoogle Scholar, (see further Nisbet-Hubbard, op. cit. 309 ff.).

page 45 note 3 See Rothstein's admirable note on 30 and 31; on iter see Camps, ad loc.

page 46 note 1 We are intended to look back to the poet's awakening, and the wet associations of the Camenae (originally water-deities), who have contributed freshness and possibly dewiness to the dawn of the opening, link up with Cynthia's washing of her face in pura … lympha( 13), for Lympha is the goddess of water.

page 47 note 1 The Latin Love Elegy (London, 1969), 127.Google Scholar

page 48 note 1 A comparison which I hope is not unhelpful may be drawn with Shakespeare's at least partially adverse view of hectic drunkenness in Antony and Cleopatra, from which I quote:


Let's have one other gaudy night: call to me

All my sad captains, fill our bowls once more;

Let's mock the midnight bell.

CLEOPATRA. It is my birthday.

III, xiii, 182–5

In this play, English drama's greatest celebration of sensuality, Shakespeare maintains a degree of critical objectivity, consideration of which may help us to appreciate the extent of our poet's involvement. In the world of Antony and Cleopatra to ‘drown consideration' is escapism: in Propertius’ poem it is enriching.

page 48 note 2 I should like to acknowledge my debt to Camps's valuable notes on iii. 10.