Shunned Love: A Tibullan Response to Propertius 1.15

Matthew D. Crutchfield

University of Missouri, Columbia

In 1.5 Tibullus writes "haec mihi fingebam, quae nunc Eurusque Notusque iactat odoratos vota per Armenios" (35-36) (I was imagining these things for myself, which vows now the Eurus and Notus toss through scented Armenia) after having imagined Delia living with him on his small Italian estate. The poet's attempt to convince Delia not to abandon him for the richer lover is a fairly typical gesture found throughout Augustan love Elegy. In fact, the situation in this poem echoes Propertius 1.15; where Tibullus personalizes with his use of mihi Propertius externalizes and attacks Cynthia in 23-4, "quarum nulla tuos potuit convertere mores, tu quoque uti fieres nobilis historia" (Nothing of these things was able to change your manners, you also could have been my noble history). Propertius writes this couplet after he has reminded Cynthia of how the heroines of Greek Mythology have acted when unappreciated by their lovers in an effort to encourage her to be just as faithful. Both these poems present the exclusus amator who has been locked out of the girl's house while she is entertaining a new lover.

Textual and literary evidence indicate that Tibullus published his first book of elegies shortly after Propertius. R.O.A.M. Lyne (1998) has established that Tibullus' first book responds to Propertius' Monobiblos, while Propertius' second book responds to Tibullus' first. The poets respond and counter-respond to each other by altering the genre's many formulaic scenes. Though many scholars, most notably Jacoby (1909) and Murgatroyd (1980), have noted the similarities between Tibullus and Propertius, they have not fully studied the responses and counter-responses found between the two elegists. In this paper, I argue that Tibullus 1.5 responds to Propertius 1.15 not only in the poet's Elegiac pose, the exclusus amator, but also in content and structure. 

 Both Propertius (1.15:1-8) and Tibullus (1.5:1-8) begin their elegies by lamenting the state of the break-up, Propertius charges Cynthia of cheating on him, while Tibullus compares himself to a top spun by a boy. Both poets make it clear that their mistresses are directly or indirectly responsible for their torture. The poets then attempt to convince their lovers not to leave them. Propertius relies on mythical heroines to convince Cynthia to be loyal to him (9-22). Tibullus, however, reminds Delia of all he has done for her, most recently how he helped her over her sickness (9-17). Then Tibullus expands this section of the poem and recounts his imagined idyllic life with Delia where she helps out on the farm and they entertain Messalla on their small farm. In the end, however, both the poets' efforts are fruitless; Propertius ends his poem (22-42) with a realization that neither Cynthia nor himself will change and that he will welcome her back after her new love interest has left her. Tibullus comes out of his reverie and realizes that he too has lost Delia for the moment (36-46) and after cursing the lena (47-58) he remains locked outside Delia's door and waits for his turn to welcome her back (59-76). Both poems intend to persuade the unfaithful mistress to stay with the poet and both are presently unsuccessful. We sense, however, that they will at some point regain their mistress' affections (Propertius l.15.35-38 and Tibullus 1.5.68-74). Though Tibullus greatly alters his imagery and language in 1.5 he retains the same general structure of Propertius 1.15. This comparative study allows us to better understand the importance of poetic response in Augustan elegiac poetry.


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