Propertius, Elegies

LCL 18: 36-37

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Book One

The first book of Propertius consists of 20 poems, in each of which his sweetheart, though she is not always named, plays some part; but the poet has added a coda of three poems (possibly earlier work) having nothing to do with Cynthia, consisting of an epyllion and two epigrams. That this book stands quite apart from any other of the poet’s is shown most strikingly by its distance from them in metrical technique: nearly 40 percent of its pentameters end in polysyllabic words (as against 14 percent in Book Two, 5 percent in Book Three, and 2 percent in Book Four). This is one reason for confidence that the coda is an integral part of Book One, another being that the last poem, like the first, is addressed to Tullus. Lacking the Elegies of Gallus we do not know how far our poet was dependent on him; but for the rest, Book One is remarkably fresh and original and varied, Cynthia asleep (3), Cynthia threatening to leave Propertius (8), the song of the excluded lover (16), and the Hylas epyllion (20) being some of its memorable pieces. From the absence of Maecenas name we may fairly infer that the poet had not yet been admitted to his circle.

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.propertius-elegies.1990