Saturday, 12 May 2012


Passing through the agora I
Glimpsed a vision of loveliness
A slave girl purchasing fish;
She was having difficulty speaking
The rough dialect of the vendor
And I offered my assistance;
Her noble bearing and fine features
Bespoke an origin far removed from
Slavery ~ her blond hair and blue eyes
Suggested a homeland far to the north
Of the Empire ~ having helped this
Delightful creature complete the purchase
Of an octopus and some sardines I boldly
Insisted on accompanying her to her master's house
Some three stadia away towards the Quirinal;
We both slowed our pace and enjoyed
The early summer sunshine together
I gleaned some tantalising details;
Her name was Morina and she had
Been taken from a village in Silesia
By the XII legion under Marcus Agricola
The previous year and brought to Rome
Where she was purchased by Caius Lucius
Grabellus an ageing public orator and lecher
To help his shrewish wife Calphurnia;
Morina was importuned by the vile Grabellus
Whenever he thought his wife was not looking
Although she was well aware of his proclivities;
It was a relief to be able to get out
To the market for an hour or so;
I determined to help Morina and
Suggested that I might purchase her
From the bloated toad Grabellus if he
Were willing; I knew that he prized gold
Even more than porcellana;
I would make my move at the baths
The following day when the orator was
In the habit of exposing his wrinkled paps
To all and sundry whilst eating pork flesh
And ogling the younger bathers;
Morina's master was clearly frustrated
By her refusal to submit to his base desires
And was willing to sell her for LXV sesterces
And an amphora of my best olive oil;
I said that he drove a hard bargain
Which pleased him no end and his
Pendulous wattles shook with merriment
And we shook hands on the deal;
Grabellus' hand was mottled with liver spots
And greasy from the pork chop he had been
Nibbling during our conversation;
The following morning Morina was
Escorted to my villa on the upper slopes
Of the Capitoline by Grabellus' factor
The eunuch Lascellus who witnessed
The transfer of ownership and sealed
The documents with his master's sigil;
I handed over the silver pieces and saw
The heavy amphora of oil loaded onto
The dogcart in which they had arrived;
I offered Morina my arm and showed her
Around her new home ~ she accepted a
Cup of posset and some fish soup;
We retired to my bedchamber where Morina
Expressed her gratitude with great enthusiasm;
Afterwards we stood at the open window
Looking out over the greatest city on earth;
Her head was resting on my shoulder
But I could tell she was thinking of
Her pine dark mountain in the Silesian
Fastness and her family missing her there;
I squeezed her hand gently and we returned
To the fur-strewn bed once more;
I wish they all could be Calphurnia girls

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