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Addressed to Cynthia

1 What's the point of walking around, love, with your hair all done up?
Why does Coan clothing cover your delicate breasts?
Why do you drench your hair in Orontean myrrh
and sell yourself with foreign enticements?
You lose your natural charm with storebought sophistication,
you don't allow your limbs their native splendor.

Believe me, there's no way to improve your figure:
nude Love doesn't love artifice in beauty.
Look what colors the beautiful earth sends forth,
how the ivies come better of their own accord.
The arbutus surges most deliciously in lonely caves,
and water, untaught, knows how to run its course.
The shore gleams, painted in its own stones
and birds sing sweetest without any art.

Phoebe didn't turn on Castor, nor did her sister,
Hilaira, Pollux, with sophistication.
Nor did the daughter of Euenus on her native shore,
when there was that quarrel between Phoebus and Idas.
It wasn't fake beauty that got Hippodamia
a Phrygian husband and a trip on foreign wheels.
Her face wasn't ruined by gems
the color of Apelles' work.
None of them conquered their lovers commonly:
Modesty was beauty enough for them.

I'm not afraid you'll think less of me for saying this:
if she's pleasing to one man, a girl is sophisticated enough.
Especially when Phoebus gives you his songs,
and Calliope is liberal with the Aonian lyre.
It lacks no grace, your happy speech,
which is everything Venus, everything Minerva approves.
That's how you'll always be the best thing in my life:
when those horrible luxuries bore you.


  • Silks from the island of Cos were known for their fine transparency.
  • from the Orontes river in Syria.
  • daughters of Leucippus, king of Messenia. Castor and Pollux carried them off and married them.
  • Marpessa, who was carried off by Idas. Later, Apollo tried to wrest Marpessa from Idas, and Jupiter allowed her to choose between the two. She chose the mortal, knowing she could grow old with him, while the god would tire of her.
  • Oenomaus, King of Elis, ordered all suitors of his daughter Hippodamia to compete with him in a chariot race. The winner would gain Hippodamia's hand, the losers be put to death. Pelops comes from Phrygia and convinces the King's groom to remove the linchpin from his master's axle. Oenomaus is killed, and Pelops gains the kingdom as well as a bride, thereby initiating the Peloponnesian dynasty.
  • painter of the fourth century B.C. from Cos, famous for his use of color intensified by brilliant glaze.
  • Apollo, god of the sun, poetry, and music. But Apollo is the god of music as reason, measure, logic—not music as ecstasy, which is Dionysus. Nietzsche's early essay on the dichotomy in Greek tragedy is stimulating.
  • later the muse of epic, but in Propertius' day the muses were not yet rigidly compartmentalized.
  • mythic name of Boeotia, where Mount Relicon, sacred to Apollo and the Muses, is found.
  • load focus Latin (Vincent Katz, 1995)
    load focus Latin (Lucian Mueller, 1898)
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    hide References (4 total)
    • Commentary references to this page (1):
      • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 2
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