Propertius, Elegies

LCL 18: 20-21


some poems fall fairly obviously into regular blocks of verses:

1.6 = 6: 6: 6: 6: 6: 6

1.10 = 10: 10: 10

1.14 = 8: 8: 8

No less obviously, Propertius sometimes closes with a sign-off couplet:

1.9 = 8: 8: 8: 8: 2

Occasionally a transposition made on independent grounds seems to gain support from the resultant symmetry. Thus, moving 25f after 36 produces

1.16 = 8: 8: 8: 8: 8: 8

Naturally, the danger of persuading oneself into reshuffling verses to fit a preconceived scheme is great, and was frighteningly illustrated by Richmond’s edition; and even without manipulation different editors are likely to analyze a poem in different ways. Still, the possibility that Propertius was at least to some extent composing with a definite scheme in mind confronts the critic with yet another stern challenge.

Editorial Principles Establishment of the text

In the effort to determine exactly what Propertius wrote and what he meant his editor is frequently faced with a choice between the certainly false (and often unintelligible) reading of the tradition and an essentially true


restoration of the original that, in verbal fidelity, may vary from being highly probable to merely possible. Clarity and common sense recommend the second of these two options, and I have preferred it every time.

In orthography I have continued the principles adopted in my other editions. Certainly we cannot expect our defective tradition to have preserved the words of the poet exactly as he wrote them; and it is by no means certain that he was consistent in assimilating or dissimilating words, in transliterating Greek names, and even in spelling the same word. The most sensible thing is to publish the poems of Propertius with the best imperial forms (cycnis, not cygnis) and standardized spellings (Baiis, Maiis, not Bais, Mais). I continue to give accusative plurals of i-stems as -es for substantives and -is for adjectives and participles sooner than perpetuate the utter unreliability of the manuscripts in this regard (as may be illustrated from 4.5.47, where the theoretically correct spelling derives confirmation from what was once scribbled on a wall in Pompeii [see Index]). Prodelision is everywhere written (famast, gavisa’s, not fama est, gavisa es): this will at least ensure the correct pronunciation.

Critical notes

The notes beneath the Latin text are not designed to be an apparatus criticus: in a controversial author like Propertius that would consume a huge amount of space and still not serve the most useful purpose. What I have done is to limit myself to essential notes, taking for granted those corrections of the manuscript tradition (Ω) which have won general acceptance. Thus I give no note at such places as 1.20.12 Adryasin (adriacis Ω); 2.7.20 nomine