The Poet in Solitude: Propertius 1.18

Propertius 1.18

(Translation is my own)

This, certainly, is a deserted spot,  a quiet place for my complaints

and an empty grove only possessed by the light breeze of the west wind.

In this place it is freely permitted for me to pour forth my hidden pain;

that is if the lonely rocks are able to keep my trust.

At what point, my Cynthia, should I first repeat the tale of your

scornful contempt?  How did you make me start crying in the first place,

Cynthia?  I was just recently counted among the number of happy lovers,

but now I am forced to bear the mark of shame because of your love.

What have I done to deserve this? What crime have I committed that has

turned you against me?  Is the worry of a new woman the cause for your distance?

If you return yourself to me, cold woman, then and I can assure you that

no other woman has set her fair feet on my doorstep.   Even though in

my distress I have every right to be harsh with you, nevertheless, my savage anger

will not be released upon you and cause you to have perpetual fury against me or to weep

so many floods of tears that those eyes of yours should become ugly.

Or could it be that I give almost no signs of my feelings by the expression

on my face, or that no cries of loyalty towards you ever cross my lips?

Oh you trees, if you are capable of love,  you will be my witnesses—beech trees

and pine trees, beloved by the Arcadian god.   Ah, how often my words echo

under your shades, and how often the name “Cynthia” is written on the

thin bark of your trunks!  Ah, how your injury has caused me great anxiety,

an anxiety which is only increased by your silent door!

As a timid man I have accustomed myself to forebear all the demands of a

haughty woman and not to complain about her deeds through my melodious

grief.  I am given, for all of this grief, endless mountains, frigid rock, and the harsh

silence of an uncultivated wilderness.  Whatever of my complaints I am able

to narrate aloud, I, alone, am forced to say these things to the chirping birds.

And whoever you are, let the forests echo back to me my calling of “Cynthia”

and may the deserted rocks never be free from your name.


Filed under Classics

8 responses to “The Poet in Solitude: Propertius 1.18

  1. Marcus

    That’s beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful! Thank you for translating! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Severn Meadows

    I haven’t read Propertius before- now I want to read more!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautiful translation, Melissa. Propertius, in real agony, right before my eyes. Katz’s Propertius is so…theoretical, distant; a poetic narrator only on paper: “What beginning of crying, Cynthia, do you give me?” he faux-whines.
    Your Propertius: “How did you make me start crying in the first place, Cynthia?”
    Ha! I love this. More Propertius, please!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for this wonderful comment! Propertius is so underappreciated, I think. In part it’s die to the literal, dry translations like the one you cited. Yes, definitely more Propertius! Have a terrific weekend.


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