In the reign of Augustus Caesar
Roman Public Baths
Numbered one hundred and fifty

But by the year three hundred
Public Baths succeeded
To be almost a thousand

Given that the Roman population
Was not metropolitan millions

That such Aqua-Leisure Centres
Were frequented every day

Has there ever lived a cleaner race?
Hot water piped the opium of its people

If thermal springs could not be found
Roman Ingenuity was invented

Petronius gave this sound advice   –
‘Beware of those who smell too sweet’

Or some might say behind that bather’s back
‘I smell a rat’




Stranger you insist
On washing undressed sores
Here in the public bath?

Contemptuous of custom
No doubt you think them
Jewels we all might share?

You have earned your portion
They stem from passing pleasures
Keep them for yourself   –

Death has sucked blood oranges
In you it spits the pips



Bernard Saint
Illustration: Claire Palmer



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