It’s Valentine’s Day, Horace, and I need an ode.
It’s the day of lovers, Pindar, and Greek
would be even better than this cold Latin;
but perhaps Catullus could warm my heart
on this evening devoted to that organ
which has not changed much over the years,
unlike your fossilized language, which shed its blood
over Europe and the Americas, even over the Italian Peninsula,
creating such new flowers as Spanish, Portuguese, Italian,
French: roses of many hues all possessing thorns.
You must know that, whoever you are, because I suspect
Cynthia made you suffer, and isn’t crying a poet’s vocation,
from Dante to Petrarch right down to Chet Baker? Blame it
on their youth, their sensitivity, their hubris or simply a need
to sing for no particular reason, because mouths and hearts
like that sort of thing, because a song can call someone
back who has gone astray, or, so they say, summon
a lover not yet in the picture; fashion a fleeting image
in words if not in the flesh, like Cynthia when she first
appeared, like Cynthia when she became a shadow.
-- Peter Drake