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The Insistence of Memory: Propertius 22

The grammar is strange here, too. Praecipue is an adverb but seems to be largely referring to dolor, which in turn is acting in a vaguely adjectival manner. The overarching sense of the full phrase is something close to “this was especially painful for me,” but there is no grammatical this, and no verb to describe its action or its being. There’s a hole in the center of the line, not unlike the chiasmatic skip that sometimes describes the indescribable in the elegists: something happened to turn Gallus from living neighbor into cast-out bones, but the narrator either cannot or will not get at quite what that something was.

The Love that Dare Not Speak its Name: Catullus 31 ¹

Phoning it in this week (hey, moving’s stressful) with something of a previously-on: here’s my first-place entry for the Wellesley English Department translation contest. Sharp-eyed readers will note a continuing dialogue with my first blog post here, but I’ll let the treatment speak for itself…

Brief Lives: Propertius 21

It is only from the dead that Aeneas learns the shape of his fate, after all: the dead and the yet-to-be-dead, who were and are and are to come. Dead men tell all sorts of tales, in Roman literature, and those tales tend to be about things that brush up against the architecture of Fate. Who can tell the story of the Odyssey, except for the dead Odysseus himself?

A Haunting, Of Sorts: Catullus 101

Inferias is an interesting word: Lewis and Short define it as “sacrifices in honor of the dead,” but etymologically it seems likely that it comes from the prefix in (“into, in”) and the irregular verb fero, ferre, tuli, latus (“to bear, to bring.”) Inferias, then, might be literally (and inelegantly) translated as “pertaining to those things which have been borne in”: into where? Into the earth, into the tomb, into that undiscovered country / from whose bourn no traveller returns. From the dust we came, and into the dust we shall return.