Propertius, Elegies

LCL 18: 100-101

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Book I



Book Two

As Lachmann first realized, Book 2 is a conflation of two books: its bulk is far too large for an Augustan poetry book; and at 2.13.25 the poet implies that he is writing his third book. But this section of Propertius’ oeuvre is badly mutilated. We often meet with sequences which are fragmentary or dislocated or even interpolated, a baffling situation only emphasized by the unflawed beauty of 2.12, the poet’s finest lyric. The themes of this section are still centred on a lover’s emotions, and Cynthia still dominates them. Although Maecenas would like Propertius to sing of loftier themes, the poet in 2.1 protests his lack of ability to do so, but in 2.10 (perhaps the conclusion of the second book) brashly promises to celebrate Augustus in the future. However, in 2.13 (possibly the opening of his third book) he confesses his helplessness. Still, as he proceeds, Propertius begins to spread his wings in varying and dramatizing his material, in embarking on extensive compositions, and in confidently assuming his poetic greatness.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.propertius-elegies.1990