Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
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T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
 
The Interview with Varus and His Mistress
By Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84–c. 54 B.C.)
 
(Translated by George Lamb, 1821)

AS I was idling time away
Just by the Forum t’ other day,
  My Varus took me thence
To see the wanton, hid delight;
And, faith! she struck me at first sight        5
  To want nor charms nor sense.
 
We then fell into conversation
About Bithynia’s situation,
  The value of the land,
And what my profit there had been:        10
I mention’d truly all I’d seen,
  And how things really stand.
 
“That not the Pretor nor his train
Could there afford from any gain
  More sumptuous dress or fare;        15
And sure not we, that Pretor’s slaves,
The worst of profligates and knaves,
  Who prized us not a hair.
 
“Of course,” she said, “as they relate
’Tis usual, you some slaves for state        20
  To bear your litter bought.”
I felt a little pride arise;
And was not willing in her eyes
  To be a pauper thought.
 
So cried, “Oh, yes. Though luck was bad,        25
It was not on the whole so sad,
  That I eight slaves should lack.”
In truth, I never here nor there
Possess’d a single slave to bear
  My litter on his back.        30
 
Said she, a harlot thorough bred!
“Catullus, lend me, pray, that bed,
  I wish but to be taken
To where Serapis holds his fane”——
“Start stay!” said I, “let’s think again—        35
  I’ve none—I was mistaken.
 
“’Tis China’s bed, scarce his alone,
I use it just as ’twere my own:
  Who’s owner nought care I.
Thou’rt an uncivil, troublous jade,        40
Whose artful mercenary trade
  Won’t let one tell a lie.”
 
 
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