This is the first of a new series of Pantheon Poets Latin medleys – a selection of Latin poems which share a common theme. The first is love, and specifically love that is happy – so far. You can hear the Latin and follow in English by following the links, and on each poem page you will find another link if you would like to see a blog post with an illustration.

We start – where else – with one of the most celebrated love poems in any language: Catullus inviting Lesbia to live and love, and not to mind the gossip or count the kisses.
Vivamus, mea Lesbia

Next, Virgil in the Aeneid describes Dido, the Queen of Carthage, falling for Aeneas, the brave and noble Trojan Prince who is her guest.
Dido falls in love

In this extract, Ovid expresses some of the free and easy attitudes to love that we believe got him into trouble with the Emperor Augustus – a great believer in conservative family values – and earned him a one-way ticket to an unhappy exile by the Black Sea.
Ovid’s broad-minded advice to his mistress

Propertius has been out for a night on the tiles and makes a dawn visit to his lady-love, Cynthia.
Propertius and his sleeping beauty

Ovid has been courting. Finally he has had his wicked way, and seems not to care who knows about it.
Ovid’s triumph

Back finally to Catullus, doyen of love poets. How many kisses are enough for him and too much. How many??!!
How many kisses

Links to new selections will be posted in the index here.

In this second selection of poems on a theme, love is not going so smoothly. Dido is being consumed by a passion for Aeneas which as yet is unrequited:

Dido falls in love

Propertius is obsessed by Cynthia, but she only seems to make him unhappy:

Cynthia

Catullus was so blissfully happy with Lesbia, but his luck has changed:

poor Catullus

Propertius is still camped on his lady’s doorstep, and her door doesn’t seem to care:

the lover’s complaint to the door

But doesn’t Horace say that he is glad that it is over with Pyrrha? Yes, but you can see that he still misses her:

Pyrrha

Even in Hades when human life is past, Dido harbours a grudge:

Aeneas finds Dido among the shades

Propertius again – he says he’s invincible, but it doesn’t sound much fun to be

insatiable.

Follow this link to see:

the index of Latin selections

Today’s post is the first poem in Propertius’s works. He introduces us to Cynthia. He is not happy. Whether this is because he hasn’t got her, or because he has got her, we can’t be quite sure, but by the next poem they will be an item. It will be a long and rocky ride together. Cynthia is a skilled musician and lyre player, which is not the only attribute she has in common with the sirens.

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.