Translated by Steven J. Willett
Propertius and Cynthia at Tivoli, Auguste Jean Baptiste Vinchon
Note: This elegy concludes the sequence I.6~14 that deals with opposition to a true lover’s ratio vitae based on the poet’s own experience. The conventional wealth of a rich young man like Tullus, whose political and military career provides no room for love, is placed in sharp contrast to a relatively poor young man who has dedicated his life to the joys of love. Elegy I.14 is unique in expounding the full triumph of love. Through the development of Elegies I.6~14, Propertius gives us a comparison of false and true amores.
It’s quite alright, sprawling easily by the Tiber’s water you drink the Lesbian wine in Mentor’s cup, and marvel sometimes how rapid little skiffs rush along and sometimes how slow barges go on ropes; and all your orchard arch its planted woods over head with just as many trees that weigh the Caucasus; yet none of those would stand to strive against my love: she knows not, love, a yield to massive wealth. For whether she prolongs with me the longed for night, or guides the whole day long in willing love, then come under my house the waters of the Pactolus, and gems extracted underneath the Red Sea; then my delights pledge me that the kings will concede: may these endure, till fate wants me to die! For who takes joy from riches with love adverse to him? No gain if Venus shows her wrath to me. She has the power to wreck the heroes’ mighty strength. She even is a grief to hardy minds. She neither is afraid to overstep the Arabian threshold nor fears, Tullus, to slide onto a purple couch, and a miserable youth to thresh about in his bedding: what mitigate the silken textured brocades? For while she’s by me well appeased, then I’ll not care to overlook all realms or gifts of Alcinous.