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Daily Lit: Sextus Propertius: The Love Elegies

on December 31, 2011

Book I.1:1-38 Love’s madness

Cynthia was the first, to my cost, to trap me with her eyes: I was untouched by love before then. It was Amor lowered my gaze of endless disdain, and, feet planted, bowed my head, till he taught me, recklessly, to scorn pure girls and live without sense, and now this madness has not left me for one whole year, though I do attract divine hostility.
Milanion, did not shirk hard labour, Tullus, my friend, to crush fierce Atalanta, Iasus’s daughter. Then he strayed lovesick in Parthenium’s caves, and faced wild beasts there: thrashed, what is more, by the club of Hylaeus, the Centaur, he moaned, wounded, among Arcadia’s stones. So he was able to overcome the swift-footed girl: such is the value of entreaty and effort in love. Dulled Amor, in me, has lost his wits, and forgets the familiar paths he travelled before.
But you whose trickeries draw down the moon, whose task it is to seek revenge, by sacrifice on magic fires, go change my mistress’s mind, and make her cheeks grow paler than my own! Then I will believe you have power to lead rivers and stars wherever you wish, with Colchian charms.
Or you, my friends who, too late, would draw me back from error, search out the cure for a sick heart. I will suffer the heat and the knife bravely, if only freedom can speak as indignation wishes. Lift me through furthest nations and seas, where never a woman can follow my track. You, to whom gods grant an easy hearing, who live forever secure in mutual love, stay behind. Venus, our mistress, turns nights of bitterness against me, and Amor never fails to be found wanting. Avoid this evil I beg you: let each cling to his own love, and never alter the places of familiar desire. But if one hears my warning too late, O with what agony he will remember my words!

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