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
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.