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Propertius II.26A

Translation copyright © 2000 Diane Arnson Svarlien; all rights reserved.

        I seemed to see you, love, struggling through the cold Ionian
     waves, your boat in splinters, weak arms weary;
And as your great damp mass of hair was pulling you down
     you confessed to every lie you ever told me.
5I thought of Helle, gulping wine-dark lungfuls, sunk:
     spilled from the sky, from the back of the golden ewe . . .
You! Fear overcame me: what if sailors should one day
     remember your name and weep as they slip through
these waters, calling this sea the "Cynthian"? I prayed
10     to every god, made every vow: "Neptune!
Leucothoë! Castor! Pollux! Save her!" Only your hands
     were visible, but I heard you again and again
calling my name as you died. If Glaucus then, the sea-green
     god, had seen your lovely little eyes,
15you would have been the Ionian Sea's best girl; nymphs
     (whiter than pearls, or bluer than the skies)
would sulk, and crackle with jealousy as you passed. Instead
     I saw a dolphin speeding to your side--
the very one, I think, who saved Arion--who delivered
20     lyre and poet to shore. And as I tried
to fling myself from the top of the sheer rock scarp,
     the whole scene, scatter-shot with fear, had disappeared.
  
vidi te in somnis fracta, mea vita, carina
     Ionio lassas ducere rore manus,
et quaecumque in me fueras mentita fateri,
     nec iam umore gravis tollere posse comas,
5qualem purpureis agitatam fluctibus Hellen,
    aurea quam molli tergore vexit ovis.
quam timui, ne forte tuum mare nomen haberet,
     atque tua labens navita fleret aqua!
quae tum ego Neptuno, quae tum cum Castore fratri,
10     quaeque tibi excepi, iam dea, Leucothoe!
at tu vix primas extollens gurgite palmas
     saepe meum nomen iam peritura vocas.
quod si forte tuos vidisset Glaucus ocellos,
     esses Ionii facta puella maris,
15et tibi ob invidiam Nereides increpitarent,
     candida Nesaee, caerula Cymothoe.
sed tibi subsidio delphinum currere vidi,
     qui, puto, Arioniam vexerat ante lyram.
iamque ego conabar summo me mittere saxo,
20     cum mihi discussit talia visa metus.

 

This translation was first published in Arion, Third Series, 1.1 (Winter 1990).

Permission is hereby granted to distribute for classroom use, provided that both Diane Arnson Svarlien and Diotima are identified in any such use. Other uses not authorized in writing by the translator or in accord with fair use policy are expressly prohibited.

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