A Suggestion for a Friday Night: Propertius, 2.1.43-46

“The sailor talks about the winds, and the ploughman about the bulls; the soldier counts his wounds, and the shepherd his sheep. We engage in our own little battles on a narrow bed. People should grind away the day doing what they’re good at.”


navita de ventis, de tauris narrat arator;

enumerat miles vulnera, pastor oves;

nos angusto versamus proelia lecto:

qua pote quisque, in ea conterat arte diem.

What a Girl Wants: Mimnermus vs. Homer (Propertius 1.9.9-14)

What good to you is threnody, or crying over the walls built by Amphion’s lyre? In matters of love, a verse of Mimnermus is worth a lot more than Homer. Gentle Cupid would like to hear a softer strain. So please, put down those sad little books, and sing something that a girl would like to hear!



quid tibi nunc misero prodest grave dicere carmen
aut Amphioniae moenia flere lyrae?                 10
plus in amore valet Mimnermi versus Homero:
carmina mansuetus lenia quaerit Amor.
i quaeso et tristis istos sepone libellos,
et cane quod quaevis nosse puella velit!

Propertius, 1.4.12-14

“Bassus, there are greater things by which one might happily perish: her natural color, the grace of her limbs in motion, and those joys which one may learn of beneath her untelling blouse.”


sunt maiora quibus, Basse, perire iuvat:

ingenuus color et motis decor artubus et quae

gaudia sub tacita discere veste libet.

Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.33

“Sooner or later, we all hurry off to the same place.”

aut serius aut citius sedem properamus ad unam.


[Literally, ‘more slowly or more quickly’ we set off to one place.]

Compare Ovid’s predecessor Propertius (3.5.15):

“The victor and the vanquished alike will mingle among the shades.”

victor cum victis partier miscebitur umbris.


Some suggest that A.E. Housman’s poetry shows very little trace of being influenced by his extensive engagement with Latin poetry. However, it is hard not to sense the similarity between the above two sentiments and that famous line from To an Athlete Dying Young,

“And silence sounds no worse than cheers

after earth has stopped the ears.”

Propertius, 1.1.9-10

It was not by shrinking from hard work, Tullus, that Milanion tamed the savagery of Atalanta. 


Milanion nullos fugiendo, Tulle, labores
    saevitiam durae contudit Iasidos


Most ancient accounts hold that Milanion (Hippomenes) won Atalanta’s hand in marriage by beating her in a footrace, in which he threw golden apples on the course to distract her and ensure his own victory. Propertius, however, gives a vague account of a series of hunting expeditions undertaken with the aim of impressing her, ultimately ending in a conflict with the centaur Hylaeus, in which Milanion sustained an impressive injury. Whether because she pitied him or she was impressed by his wound, Atalanta loved Milanion thereafter. Propertius’ account is, more or less, about as un-romantic as the traditional version.