23 December 2009

Lesbia in Orco (David Vessey)

Reading Catullus on the Northern Line
in Fordyce's edition (which omits the obscene),
I wondered if Lesbia would have got out at Hampstead
or come on with me to Golders Green.

Somehow I don't picture her
on the platform at Bank,
jostled in a smoking carriage
by a man who stank

of 'The Daily Telegraph' and Players plain.
Perhaps I am wrong
there may be somewhere a Lesbia
worthy of song

from Gaius Valerius Catullus, who
counts her kisses like stars in the sky:
but for some reason
she escapes my eye

as I read his carmina on the Underground.
She must be as rare
as the nymph who picked up Peleus
near Weston-super-Mare

as he sailed in the Argo on a virgin sea.
(But isn't that Attis in a shiny suit
asking a dame to dance with him
to the sound of dinning cymbal and of shrilling flute?)

Who? Lesbia? I know her: she went to Leicester Square
and hurried through to Soho in the evening rain,
where she helps the sons of Romulus
drink Japanese champagne.

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