Loves Miseries

The theme of love's miseries is more frequently and more thoroughly explored in Latin and Greek poetry than in English. Propertius describes here how his love for Cynthia first affected him.

Cynthia prima suis miserum me cepit ocellis, contactum nullis ante cupidinibus. tum mihi constantis deiecit lumina fastus et caput impositis pressit Amor pedibus, donee me docuit castas odisse puellas 5

improbus, et nullo vivere consilio. ei mihi, iam toto furor hie non deficit anno, cum tamen adversos cogor habere deos.

text Propertius Elegies, ed. G. P. Goold (Loeb Classical Library, 1990)

meter elegiac couplet [§m2]

Cynthia | prima su|is || mise|rum me | cepit o|cellis cdntac|tum nul|lis || ante cu|pidini|bus

1 suis ... ocellis instrumental abl. [§g47] with her eyes (ocellus -i m. a diminutive of oc'ulus, but used here in the same sense).

2 contactum (smitten; contingo -ere) is qualified by the adverb ante (previously);

nullis ... cupidinibus instrumental abl. [§g47] by no desires (cupido cupidinis p.).

3f. The subject of both verbs is Amor, the god of love; mihi dat. of reference [§g 32] with deiecit (deicio -ere), lit., cast down for me, i.e., cast down my [eyes]; take constantis ... fastus (gen. of description [§g 20]) with lumina (lumen lumi-nis n.), lit., eyes of resolute pride (fastus -us m.)—the poet had previously scorned love; impositis ... pedibus instrumental abl. [§g47], lit., with feet (pes pedis m.) having been put on (impono -ere) [it]; premo -ere here trample on.

5f. The subject is still Amor; castas... puellas (lit., chaste girls) probably does not mean women who preserved their chastity, with whom Propertius seems to have had little, if any, contact, but rather those who, like Cynthia at the beginning of their acquaintance, resisted his sexual advances; trans, improbus (lit., shameless, qualifying the understood Amor) by the villain; nulld ... consilio instrumental abl. [§G47] with no plan, i.e., recklessly.

7 ei (one syllable) mihi exclamation, lit., alas for me!; toto ... anno abl. of time within which [§g37] over an entire year; furor furoris m. madness; non deficit (deficio -ere) lit., does not subside, but trans, has not abated.

8 cum tamen trans, while, however; adversus hostile; cogor 1 sg. pres. ind. pass, cogo -ere; habere here to endure—Propertius does not specify how the gods have afflicted him.

in me tardus Amor non ullas cogitat artes, 17

nec meminit notas, ut prius, iré vias. at vos, deductae quibus est pellada lunae et labor in magicis sacra piare focis, 20

en agedum dominae mentem convertite nostrae, et facite illa meo palleat ore magis! tune ego crediderim Manes et sidera vobis posse Cytinaeis ducere carminibus.

vos remanete, quibus facili deus annuit aure, 31

sitis et in tuto semper amore pares.

17 in më in my case; Amor is tardus (slow) because he does not allow Propertius success in his affair with Cynthia; côgitô -are devise; artës here stratagems, i.e., to win Cynthia's affections.

18 notas ... ïre viâs to tread well-known paths—Propertius' affair is not proceeding as such matters usually do; ut prius as [he did] previously.

19 The poet addresses witches, who were commonly approached in matters of love; vos (voc.) is the antecedent of the postponed [§G4] quibus (dat. of possessor [§g 30]); deductae ... pellâcia lunae lit., the seduction (pellacia -ae f.) of the moon having been drawn down (dëdùcô -ere)—trans, who seduce the moon and pull her down [from the sky] (a favorite trick of witches).

20 Another adjectival clause follows quibus; labor [est] [whose] work [it is]; in magicïs ... foeïs in magical hearths (focus m.); sacra piâre to make propitiatory sacrifices (piô piâre propitiate).

21 ën exclamation, here as an exhortation to action, which is reinforced by another exclamation, agedum (= age + dum), trans, the two words come now!; dominae mentein ... nostrae the heart (lit., mind) of my (pi. for sg. [§g 53]) mistress (domina -ae f.")'; convertô -ere change.

22 The noun clause [§g92] after facite is not introduced by ut; ilia i.e., Cynthia; meô ... ore abl. of comparison [§g42] than my face; palled -ëre be pale.

23E crëdiderim (I would attribute; perf. subj. to express a future possibility [§g68]) governs vôbïs (dat. to you); take the remaining words as follows: posse (inf. used as a noun) the power, ducere to summon (lit., lead), Mânës et sïdera the dead (Mânës Mànium m.pl.) and the stars (sïdus sideris n.); Cytïnaeïs ... car-minibus instrumental abl. [§G47] with Cytinaean spells—Cytïnaeus adj. of the town Cytina in Thessaly, a region of Greece notorious for witches.

31 remanëte (2 pl. imp. act. remaneô -ëre) stay behind—in the preceding omitted lines, Propertius contemplates traveling abroad; facili ... aure instrumental abl. [§G47] with receptive (lit., easy) ear; deus i.e., Cupid; annuo -ere + dat. (here quibus) nod to-—Cupid has willingly acceded to their wishes.

32 The clause is joined to what precedes by a postponed et [§g4]; sïtis subj. to express a wish [§gô7]; pares equally matched (par (paris)).

nam me nostra Venus noctes exercet amaras, et nullo vacuus tempore defit Amor.

hoc, moneo, vitate malum: sua quemque moretur 3 5 cura, neque assueto mutet amore torum.

quod si quis monitis tardas adverterit aures, heu referet quanto verba dolore mea!

33 nostra Venus (Veneris f.) i.e., the goddess of us lovers; noctes ... amaras acc. of time how long [§g ii] throughout bitter nights; exerced -ere here torment.

34 nullo ... tempore abl. of time when [§G37]; vacuus lit., empty, trans, ungrati-fed; defio -fieri be absent.

35f. hoc ... malum this scourge (malum -i n.); sua ... cura his own care, i.e., the object of his affection (on the use of sua here, see §g 56); quemque acc. sg. of quisque each, trans, every [lover]; moretur jussive subj. [§g6c>] let... occupy (mo-rot -arl keep the attention of, occupy); assueto ... amore abl. absolute [§G4g], trans, when love has become familiar (assuesco -ere); mutet jussive subj. [§G6g]; torus -i m. bed—the expression means to transfer one's affections to someone else.

37 quod si but if; quis indef. pron. anyone; monitis dat. with adverterit (3 sg. fut. perf. act. adverto -ere), lit., will have turned slow ears (tardas ... aures) to [my] warnings (monitum -i n.), but trans, turns ([§g66]) deaf ears to my warnings.

38 heu exclamation alas!; refero -ferre recall; quanto ... dolore abl. of attendant circumstances [§G45] with what great grief; quanto is postponed [§G4].

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