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TT was not without some hesitation that I undertook to
I prepare the present work for the Press. On the one -hand, I had long been of opinion that an edition of Propertius, adapted to the ordinary requirements of English Students,* would be acceptable to many; and that it was a reproach to the scholarship of this country that one of the most beautiful, interesting, and historically important of the Augustan Poets should remain unheeded and almost unknown; on the other hand, I was well aware, from an early acquaintance with this author, that the difficulties of the task were such as could not be fairly grappled with except by a very competent and extensively read Latin Scholar. But besides this, I felt that a very grave responsibility—and this is said unaffectedly-attaches to the Editor of a writer, who, though never indecent like Catullus and Martial, nor impure in the sense in which much of Juvenal is impure,—was yet undeniably a sensualist. The fine sentiment which the poet has himself so well expressedt in reference to the other sex, is equally applicable to the scholar who is instrumental in placing in the hands of the young any writings which have a tendency to corrupt. Now it would be vain to deny, that the misuse of these amatory elegies might prove highly prejudicial to the morals of youth. To this fact Ovid himself, though not speaking, of course, of the moral sense, — bears a testimony* which cannot be lightly disregarded :
* I say the ordinary require- | Jacob and Lachmann have pursued, ments ' advisedly, well knowing how would have proved dull and prodifficult it is to define them, and how | fitless to most readers ; in fact, the many forms notes on a Roman poet critical department is now well nigh may assume,- e.g., they may be criti exhausted. I have aimed at the last cal, or illustrative, or archæological, as the most generally useful, with or purely explanatory of the text, or especial attention to difficulties of all these combined. The first, which construction. is the line that the German editors + Book ii. El. 6, v. 27, seqq.
* Carmina quis potuit tuto legisse Tibulli,
Vel tua, cujus opus Cynthia sola fuit ??
In a word, any one who should read them for the perverse purpose of exciting the imagination, by dwelling on amorous scenes and ardent expressions, would undoubtedly derive from them as much harm as, though perhaps not more than, he would from the perusal of Byron, Moore, Shakspeare, and many other English poets. But there are other motives for studying this poet which seem to be justifiable, and even laudable. It is right that persons of discretion should form a correct idea of the real state of morals in heathen Rome. It is right that the genius of Roman elegy should be known from its earliest and best sources. It is right that every aid should be afforded for acquiring a perfect knowledge of the most important language of antiquity. It is not right that the very valuable archæological and historical facts to be derived from such a writer as Propertius should be lost, because a few of his verses are pruriently worded or wanton in sentiment. Had I, indeed, been allowed to expurgate, the omission of less than fifty lines would have removed every passage which could be called tangibly objectionable. But the practice is not, in this country, generally approved; and the advice I asked and received from distinguished scholars in 'both Universities, added to the wish of the Publisher, determined me to face the risk in the other direction. I am of opinion also that a book like Propertius should either be read in its entirety or not at all. You may expunge certain verses, more obviously offensive; but you cannot conceal the mind and morals of the writer. There remains, after all, but a Gallus Priapus.* The truth is, I have no expectation that Propertius will ever become a class-book in our Public Schools through any efforts of mine: and this expectation, as it approaches to a conviction, lightens and even removes the sense of responsibility. Great as is the beauty, and considerable as is the literary value of his poems, their difficulty is greater. It is not for very young students that his peculiar Latinity and somewhat irregular method of composition are adapted. Were it otherwise, while such works as Horace's Odes, Ovid's Epistles, Fasti, and Metamorphoses, and the Plays of Terence, are placed in the hands of youth, I know not how an exception could reasonably be made in disfavour of Propertius. But, if he is to be read at all, it is of course advisable that a correct text should be used, and that his meaning should be rightly understood by the aid of the best commentary that can be procured. Such then are the considerations which induced me to attempt to supply a want by preparing the present edition. To have executed the task to my own satisfaction would have required not only a much longer time, but access to a greater number of books, than I had at command. Still I may hope, that where very much was to be done, some little at least has been effected. English notes may perhaps be thought less adapted for the explanation of passages, where the thin veil of the Latin language would have thrown some degree of reserve over the necessary comments. But this, after all, would be only in appearance. The real question is, what is said, not the manner of saying it. And while I trust that nothing will be found in the notes that can reasonably offend, I cannot hope to have satisfied the scruples of the fastidiously sensitive. I repeat, such as these should not read Propertius at all.
* Remed. Amor. v. 763.
It is scarcely creditable to classical learning in this country, that not a single critical edition of Propertius* has ever issued from the English press. The few which have been published are mere reprints from Dutch or German editions, with or without Variorum notes. In Germany, on the contrary, the numerous and elaborate editions which have appeared attest the high value set upon this fine author by our more intellectual and literary neighbours. This fact is the more remarkable, because the English practice of Latin versification—to which, I believe, the Germans in general pay less attention than we do,—ought long ago to have awakened an appreciation and a careful study of these poems as models for at least a certain style of composition. Touching as are the simple lays of Tibullus, graceful and winning as is the elegance and consummate the art of Ovid, neither of these, nor any of the less celebrated writers of elegy, can compete with the powerful diction and the deep pathos of Propertius. His soul was of that ardent cast which poured out its whole energies in song. His intensity of feeling found expression in language at once rich, glowing, and original. It has been too much the fashion to disparage him as a somewhat
* Excepting, perhaps, that pub- | editions and the then imperfectly collished anonymously at Cambridge in lated MSS., and is a work of con1702, which is founded on the old / siderable merit.