Carmina, 10

Varus, whom I chanced to meet

The other evening in the street,

Engaged me there, upon the spot,

To see a mistress he had got.

She seemed, as far as I can gather,

Lively and smart and handsome rather.

There, as we rested from our walk,

We entered into various talk--

As, how much might Bithynia bring?

And had I found it a good thing?

I answered, as it was the fact,

The province had been stript and sackt;

That there was nothing for the praetors,

And still less for us wretched creatures,

His poor companions and toad-eaters.

"At least," says she, "you bought some fellows

To bear your litter; for they tell us,

Our only good ones come from there."

I chose to give myself an air;

"Why, truly, with my poor estate,

The difference wasn't quite so great

Betwixt a province, good or bad,

That where a purchase could be had,

Eight lusty fellows, straight and tall,

I shouldn't find the wherewithal

To buy them." But it was a lie;

For not a single wretch had I--

No single cripple fit to bear

A broken bedstead or a chair.

She, like a strumpet, pert and knowing,

Said--"Dear Catullus, I am going

To worship at Serapis' shrine--

Do lend me, pray, those slaves of thine."

I answered--"It was idly said,--

They were a purchase Cinna made

(Caius Cinna, my good friend)--

It was the same thing in the end,

Whether a purchase or a loan--

I always used them as my own;

Only the phrase was inexact--

He bought them for himself in fact.

But you have caught the general vice

Of being too correct and nice,

Overcurious and precise;

And seizing with precipitation

The slight neglects of conversation."

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