The Word and The Flesh (4)

Auguste Jean Baptiste Vinchon, Propertius and Cynthia at Tivoli

It seems that I cannot pretend convincingly, though I would so much wish I could. And I know, and have long known, that -- though my mother never attempted to put any poison in the King of King's food, nor even as much as salt -- yet I am the fruit of one of those forty-three nights. The very same nights, dear Markia, which, far beyond distant mountains and seas, your mother passed reciting to herself breathlessly and repeatedly: Quandocumque igitur nostros mors claudet ocellos accipe quae serues funeris acta miei.

Perhaps now at last I can learn how this couplet continues? Perhaps the satisfaction of this curiosity alone might be worth taking the risk (with which Alexandra tries to frighten me day and night) that at last the Roman sword might fall upon my neck? How sad that this thought had not occurred to me then, in Nisa: I would not have had to throw into his face -- between his false eyebrows and his purple beard -- the complaint (interlaced with revolting sobs) that, in order to reach at last the one person who may love me for myself alone, I should be ready to go as a hostage even among the forked-tongued citizens of Iambulos' island (if such indeed exists). Or to those lands, which (as I learned reading with Numerianos some dreadfully dull play of Seneca) stretch somewhere between China and Lusitania.

Accipe, accipe!
What did your mother, and whatshisname -- Propertios -- command to those who were to follow their funeral cortege? Numerianos is prejudiced against this poet: he says that though throughout the entire four books of his elegies he addressed himself to some Kintia, he was in fact only interested in himself. Unlike, of course, Numerianos himself: no one will suspect him of preoccupation with himself since he always so readily yielded his apartment on the Kelian Hill to anyone to whom Didia Klara was at that moment prepared to say "Where you, Gaios, there I, Gaia." Yielded -- both the apartment and her, too; and now he yields her still (though without the apartment); indeed, he offers her (at her request, of course). He even offered me. Oh, no! Numerianos cannot be suspected of Propertios-like self-worship, while he pretends to worship a woman. Though, my father suspects, it is all the same for the rest of us.

"You want love?" he asked, interrupting my revolting sobs. "Are you sure? Personally, I suspect that you wander across the world looking for -- you know what? The most flattering mirror! And for this -- only this -- you are prepared to pay a huge price. A huge price. For instance: the destruction of the Majesty of the King of Kings".


Andrew W. said...

Keep it up! I have been too busy to really engage, but I am enjoying this!

Sir G said...

well, Sir W, am i glad to hear this; i was resigned to doing this for my own pleasure alone ("myself and the muses"); and am pleased to know now that i am also doing this "you and the muses" (more in keeping with the classical quotation) -- as well as myself.

the appeal of this as literature is bound to be damned limited: almost everyone I know requires a footnote to nearly every sentence! (Lukianos of Samosata? Shakyamuni Gautama? sails marked with the letters SPQR?)

in theory that could be done, but how can one footnote a rebus? like the pretense that, since these letters are written in Greek, then all proper names must be rendered in Greek? (Propetrios and Kintia, indeed! Markos Kaisar!) one can't footnote a rebus: a footnoted rebus isn't one!

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