Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Propertius 2,29b: Checking on Cynthia.


I am a fan of youtube, not for the silly home videos, but for classical music and the unexpected things you can find. When looking for information about Propertius and Cynthia I found this link:
I was immediately fascinated and decided to delve into this poem.
Early in the morning Propertius goes to his mistress Cynthia as he suspects that she is not faithful. Cynthia immediately feels why he is there and indignant she is telling him what she thinks of him and that there is not a single sign of another man having slept with her that night. Her speech convinces me, but not Max Rothstein, who in his edition with commentary published in 1898 says:
Der Eifer, mit dem Cynthia sich verteidigt, ist gerade geeignet die Berechtigung des Verdachtes erkennen zu lassen, und der Beweis ihrer Unschuld ist durchaus nicht zwingend. Es war leicht die Spuren zum Zweck einer Täuschung zu verwischen. (The eagerness with which Cynthia is defending herself, is rather fitting to support the rightness of the suspicion, and the prove of her innocence is not at all coercive. It was easy to do away with the vestiges in order to cheat.)
I think this tells more about Rothstein, then about Cynthia…
At the end of the poem Propertius realises that by this very action Cynthia has turned away from him.


Book 2, poem XXIXb

MANE erat, et volui, si sola quiesceret illa,
    visere: at in lecto Cynthia sola fuit.
obstipui: non illa mihi formosior umquam
    visa, neque ostrina cum fuit in tunica
ibat et hinc castae narratum somnia Vestae,
    neu sibi neve mihi quae nocitura forent:
talis visa mihi somno dimissa recenti.
    heu quantum per se candida forma valet!
'Quid tu matutinus,' ait 'speculator amicae,
    me similem vestris moribus esse putas?
non ego tam facilis: sat erit mihi cognitus unus,
    vel tu vel si quis verior esse potest.
apparent non ulla toro vestigia presso,
    signa volutantis nec iacuisse duos.
aspice ut in toto nullus mihi corpore surgat
    spiritus admisso notus adulterio.'
dixit, et opposita propellens savia dextra
    prosilit in laxa nixa pedem solea.
sic ego tam sancti custos deludor amoris:
    ex illo felix nox mihi nulla fuit.


quiesco, quievi, quietum: to rest
viso visi visum: to go and see
at: apparently Propertius expected otherwise!
obstipesco  obstipui: to be astonished
hinc: from here
visa: from video!
neque = ne quidem: not even
ostrinus: purple
hinc castae narratum somnia Vestae: Cynthia had worrying dreams about her and Propertius and had been to the temple of Vesta at the Forum Romanum.
Vesta:  goddess of the hearth and household. As goddess of the Roman family she was of course casta (chaste). Within the context of this poem this word is significant, as Propertius thinks Cynthia is not.       
narratum: supine!
noceo nocui nocitum: to harm
talis visa mihi: in such a condition seen by me
somno dimissa recenti: dismissed from recent sleep  (Note how this line is in the passive, whereas the translation below had turned it into the active.)
heu quantum per se candida forma valet: O, how strong is splendid beauty in itself! (Cynthia has had no time yet to put make up on!)
matutinus: early
speculator – oris (m): spy
puto: to consider
facilis: easy to get, of loose morals
cognitus unus: to be known by one
verior: with this word Propertius is now put away as not her true lover.
torus: cushion
vestigium: trace
signa volutantis: signs of a person rolling over me
iaceo iacui iacitum: to lie down, sleep
spiritus, us (m): breath, trace
notus: actively used: betraying
opposita savia: `opposing kisses’ opposita has – I think – two meanings here: 1) opposing as trying to deny what Cynthia just said about Propertius not being faithful himself and b) in a spatial sense: his head is in front of here.
propello propuli propulsum: to push away
dextra (manu)
prosilio prosilui/prosilivi: jump up
nitor nixus sum: to lean, support
in laxa nixa pedem solea = nixa pedem in laxa solea
opposita propellens savia dextra / prosilit in laxa nixa pedem solea: these lines describe in a few words what is happening. Cynthia is still in her bed and Propertius is trying to kiss her, but she pushes back his face with her right hand, jumps off her bed, slides in her sandals without fastening them (in laxa nixa pedem solea: supporting her regarding her foot in a loose sandal) and (probably) hastes away.
sic ego tam sancti custos deludor amoris: so I was deluded as a guardian of such a sacred love.
deludor: another reading is excludor. I am not a specialist on the manuscripts of Propertius, but somehow I think the reading excludor is more satisfying.


It was dawn; I wanted to see if she slept alone: and alone she was there, in her bed. I was stunned: she’d never looked lovelier to me, not even when she went, in her purple shift, and told her dreams to virginal Vesta, lest they threatened harm to her or me. So she looked to me, shedding recent sleep. Oh, how great is the power of beauty in itself! ‘Why,’ she said: ‘you’re an early spy on your mistress, do you think my morals then are yours? I’m not so easy: it’s enough for me, one man, either you, or someone who’ll be truer. There are no traces deep in the bed, signs of writhing about, or mutual slumber. Look, no breath panting from my whole body, confessing to some adultery.’ Speaking, she pushed my face away with her hand, and leapt up, loosened sandals on her feet. Thus I ceased my spying on such chaste love: since then I’ve had not one happy night.

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