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Book description

Book description
“I wish my enemy a placid girl-friend.” (iii. 8. 20)Luckily (from the poets perspective), Propertius was not cursed with a placid girlfriend. Instead, he fell for a woman named Cynthia who drove him so crazy that he devoted most of his poetry towards memorializing their schizophrenic relationship. Unlike Horace and Virgil, Propertius focused his efforts on love poems in the style of Catullus. This book contains all of 92 of them, divided into four books published from roughly 29 to 15 b.c. All of the poems are written using the elegiac couplet. The first three books are squarely focused on Propertius relationship with his lover, Cynthia. Their affair is presented immediately as a stormy and torturous relationship, and veers wildly between emotional extremes. The fourth book, written after Cynthias death, shifts focus from love poems to aetiological poetry (poems explaining the meaning of names) in the manner of Callimachus.Propertius doesnt quite reach the heights set by Horace, Ovid, and Virgil, but his work is very good and comparable with the poems of Catullus. Propertius has a way of blending the epic and mythical into his love poetry, while remaining self-aware enough that it never feels heavy-handed. However, it never becomes so self-aware as to seem cynical. Book I is probably the strongest of the four (i. 8a is probably my favorite of all the poems), but there are standouts throughout the collection (including ii. 1, iii. 5, and iv. 11). Ultimately, this isnt a must-read collection, in the sense that Propertius is probably the fourth-most important Augustan poet (after Virgil, Ovid, and Horace in some order). But hes not terribly far behind, and fans of the other Augustan poets will find this collection quite enjoyable. 3.5 stars.
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