Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
Puella Erotica
By Francis Saltus Saltus (1849–1889)
(From Shadows and Ideals, 1890)

SHE stands most insolent in her gems and gold,
      Haughtily cold;
  Draining the cool Falernian’s amber foam:
  Her palace is the world and she its queen
      Entrancing the obscene        5
  Libidinous patricians of old Rome.
The drunken nobles, gorged with regal feasts,
      Crouch like tame beasts
  Before her sandaled feet, and deck with flowers
  The glowing Paros of her perfect breast,        10
      Pledging with feverish zest
  Her stately beauty through the riotous hours.
  Effeminate Cæsars, with a Satyr leer,
      Sigh to her ear
  Their brutal whine and maddening desires;        15
  No gleam of pleasure lingers in her glance
      Fixed on the wanton dance,
  Timed by the torment of a hundred lyres.
The boisterous laugh of Rome degenerate
      And passionate        20
  Breaks thro’ the golden hall, but no rare smile
  The indolent coral of her lip illumes;
      She breathes the heady fumes,
  And, statuesque, stands placid in her guile.
Nude slaves drag hampers of rich food and spice,        25
      Perfumes and ice,
  Unto the reeking, gold-crushed board in haste,
  With monster lampreys from Pompeii caught fresh,
      Fed upon human flesh,
  To tempt her morbid delicacy of taste.        30
The Roman youths have vainly striven for weeks
      Unto her cheeks
  To bring the rose; and to her lips the strain
  Of joyous song, but all their wealth and power,
      Lavished within an hour,        35
  Move not her proud, indifferent disdain.
Rome is not Rome! The pampered beauty seems
      To live in dreams,
  Shunning of late the gladiatorial fights,
  And the mad bacchanals she once adored        40
      Fail, and have not restored
  Her shattered mien, nor tendered new delights.
They do not know how the proud beauty burns
      With love, and yearns
  For one fair, golden-headed galley slave,        45
  Doomed by the Emperor on the coming day
      To be the tiger’s prey,
  And whom by prayer or plea she cannot save!

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