Propertius, Elegies

LCL 18: 306-307

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Book III



Book Four

Propertius’ last book consists of twelve poems. A programme of Roman elegies is announced, compromised at once by an astrologer’s warning that the poet is fated to continue writing love-elegy. There follows an alternation of each kind, aetiological poems implementing 1A, love-elegies implementing 1B, save that instead of the expected order 8-9-7 the poet has juxtaposed the two Cynthia-poems, possibly to avoid ending with two funeral elegies, possibly to suggest that his love-affair with his sweetheart continues beyond the grave. The inclusion of national topics without mention of Maecenas feeds the suspicion that (as with the fourth book of Horace’s Odes) Augustus himself had importuned the poet. Here and there Propertius softens the stark contrast between antiquarian and contemporary material by emphasizing the erotic in the one and the traditional in the other. If the results are mixed, yet he achieves notable successes with the legend of Tarpeia (4.4) and the speech of Cornelia (4.11), the latter not unworthily dubbed by Valckenaer ‘The Queen of Elegies.’

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.propertius-elegies.1990