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Addressed partially to Cynthia, partially to third party

1 Ariadne lay, Theseus' ship sailing away,
languid on lonely shores, the Knossian girl;
and Cepheus' daughter collapsed in first sleep
just free from the hard stone, Andromeda;
no less the Edonian bacchante, worn from dances,
when she fell on grassy Apidanus:
so seemed she, breathing gentle quiet,
Cynthia, supporting her head with slipping hands,
when I came in, dragging my feet with much Bacchus,
and the boys shook the torch late in the night.

Not yet having completely lost sensation,
I lightly try to advance to her, pressing on the couch;
And while a pair commanded me, gripped with lust,
Love on one side, Liber the other, each a hard god,
to lightly try her, her arm thrown up,
and to take kisses, my weapon in hand,
yet I didn't dare disturb my mistress' quiet,
fearing the outbursts of her expert cruelty.

But I remained fixed, my eyes intent,
like Argus with the strange horns of Inachus' daughter.
And now I take the garland from my forehead
and place it on your temples, Cynthia.
Now I delight to redo your fallen hair,
now I give furtive fruits to empty hands.
I lavish all these gifts on ungrateful sleep,
gifts rubbed repeatedly against dangling breasts.

And each time you take breath with a sudden motion,
I stop, believing in an empty sign,
that some vision has brought you unaccustomed fears,
or someone is forcing you unwillingly to be his,
until the moon, running across different windows,
the moon, busy with lingering moonbeams,
opens your composed eyes with its light rays.

So she speaks, fixing her elbow on the soft couch,
“Have another's insults finally brought you
back, expelled from her doors, to our bed?
So where did you consume the long hours of my night,
still languid, my god, with the stars disappearing?

If only you could experience the nights you always
force me to endure, you asshole!
At first I evaded sleep with the purple thread,
and again, exhausted, with song of the Orphic lyre.
Left all alone, I was singing lightly to myself
the frequent long delays when your lover is about.
Then drowsiness pulled me, slipping in its soft wings.
She at last cured my crying.”


  • from Knossos in Crete, daughter of King Minos, she gave Theseus the ball of twine whereby he could escape the labyrinth, after killing the Minotaur. Theseus took her with him, but left her on the island of Naxos as she slept. (Cf. Strauss' opera). She was transported to Olympos by Bacchus.
  • daughter of King Cepheus and Cassiopeia of Ethiopia, was chained to a rock by the sea to be eaten by a sea monster; rescued by Perseus.
  • a Thracian tribe that worshipped Bacchus.
  • river in Thessaly.
  • same as Bacchus, Dionysus, god of wine and revelry.
  • hundred-eyed creature commanded by Juno to guard Io, Inachus' daughter, after Jupiter had an affair with her. Juno had been sleeping; Jupiter went down to earth, placed a cloud overhead, and began having sex with Io. Juno awoke, saw the suspicious cloud and zoomed down, whisking the cloud aside. Jupiter, seeing the cloud gone, quickly changes his love object into a heifer. Juno, suspicious, orders Argus to guard the animal. One day Io confesses to Argus, and Argus tells Juno. Then Mercury comes, puts Argus to sleep and beheads him with a great blow of his sword. He sets Io free, but Juno sends an enormous gadfly to follow and sting Io. Tormented, Io jumps into the sea—henceforth the Ionian Sea—and swims to Egypt, where Jupiter transforms her back into a woman. It is very strange that Propertius would compare himself to the ugly, horrible Argus; possibly the amount of Bacchus he had imbibed gave him Arguslike vision. Also, Argus was steadfast and loyal.
  • load focus Latin (Lucian Mueller, 1898)
    load focus Latin (Vincent Katz, 1995)
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    • Commentary references to this page (3):
      • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 109
      • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 65
      • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 68a
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