At the cave mouth, poppies grow
And other flowers that bestow
A restful sleep on those below
On Earth, who toil and labour so;
Dark clouds glide silently around,
A swirling mist seeps through the ground;
No dawn comes here, no sun rays bright
Penetrate this endless night.
No gentle breezes do bestir
The branches, and the dewy air
Is filled with dreams. These phantom things
Throughout the cave on gossamer wings
Are drifting, floating, hov’ring round.
Now, from beneath a rock, the sound
Of a swiftly flowing river,
Tributary of Lethe, ever
Bringing sweet forgetfulness
In dreams. Oblivion’s caress!
Upon his couch with gentle sighs,
With peaceful heart and shaded eyes,
Somnus, ancient god of sleep
Resting in a slumber deep
Reigns over all.
I wrote this when I was sixteen, nearly fifty years ago. I have always loved the magic of poetry and I was thrilled to translate this ancient piece of writing from the original by a Roman poet – something I couldn’t do these days! We had a marvellous teacher called Miss Adamson who inspired us and brought a dead language to life. She inspired in us a passion for Latin and an appreciation of Roman culture and civilisation.