Propertius: A Slave to Love

Propertius I.12.

Haven’t you reproached me enough, Ponticus,
For idly hanging around Rome?
A certain girl is far, far from my bed,
Like the Hypanis river is far, far from the Po.
Cynthia is not stoking with hugs the love
I’ve come to expect, nor is she cooing in my ear.

I was once her beloved. No one’s ever thought
He could love with the same confidence.
We occasioned envy. Does a god now destroy me?
Or, what herb from the Caucasus mountains keeps us apart?

I am not who I was. Extended travel changes girls.
How great a love fled in little time!
And now, a first: I’m forced to know long nights alone,
And to be a burden to my own ears.

Happy is the man who can weep in front of a girl
(Love thoroughly enjoys being sprinkled with tears),
Or who is so rejected he can redirect his ardor
(serving someone new has its pleasures too).
I can’t love someone else, and I can’t break with her:
Cynthia was first. Cynthia will be last.

Quid mihi desidiae non cessas fingere crimen,
quod facias nobis, Pontice, Roma moram?
tam multa illa meo divisa est milia lecto,
quantum Hypanis Veneto dissidet Eridano;
nec mihi consuetos amplexu nutrit amores
Cynthia, nec nostra dulcis in aure sonat.

olim gratus eram: non illo tempore cuiquam
contigit ut simili posset amare fide.
invidiae fuimus: num me deus obruit? an quae
lecta Prometheis dividit herba iugis?

non sum ego qui fueram: mutat via longa puellas.
quantus in exiguo tempore fugit amor!
nunc primum longas solus cognoscere noctes
cogor et ipse meis auribus esse gravis.

felix, qui potuit praesenti flere puellae
(non nihil aspersus gaudet Amor lacrimis),
aut si despectus, potuit mutare calores,
(sunt quoque translato gaudia servitio).
mi neque amare aliam neque abhac desistere fas est:
Cynthia prima fuit, Cynthia finis erit.

Rodin. The Eternal Idol. 1893.
Musee Rodin. Paris.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

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