Propertius the insatiable

Who is this lecher boasting that he can go all night and one woman is not enough? What happened to the Propertius who is always pledging eternal loyalty to Cynthia alone, even when she is treating him like a doormat? It’s a reminder that poets are not necessarily diarists or autobiographers: if they are any good, they are artists, using their creative imagination. If you were a Roman who wanted to write love elegy and didn’t have a lover, you would invent one. If you did have one, you – and she or he – might have views on how literally the relationship should be turned into verse. Conversely, when they seem at their most imaginative and spontaneous, Roman poets may be following a convention or a model from centuries of Greek precedents that we may or may not know about. It all adds to the mystery that is one of the charms of poetry.

Hear the poem and follow in English here.