A lovely friend of mine sent me on a mission to find these poems which suit me well at the moment (I'll have you know that that last line was indeed a gaudy pun, as I am wearing sparrows on my cardigan).
Catullus' original poem, with a translation by F.W. Cornish:
Mourn, ye Graces and Loves, and all you whom the Graces love. My lady's sparrow is dead, the sparrow my lady's pet, whom she loved more than her very eyes; for honey-sweet he was, and knew his mistress as well as a girl knows her own mother. Nor would he stir from her lap, but hopping now here, now there, would still chirp to his mistress alone. Now he goes along the dark road, thither whence they say no one returns. But curse upon you, cursed shades of Orcus, which devour all pretty things! My pretty sparrow, you have taken away. Ah, cruel! Ah, poor little bird! All because of you my lady's darling eyes are heavy and red with weeping.
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950), Passer Mortuus Est:
Death devours all lovely things;
Lesbia with her sparrow
Shares the darkness, -- presently
Every bed is narrow.
Unremembered as old rain
Dries the sheer libation,
And the little petulant hand
Is an annotation.
After all, my erstwhile dear,
My no longer cherished,
Need we say it was not love,
Now that love is perished?
Dorothy Parker (1893-1967), From A Letter From Lesbia:
... So, praise the gods, Catullus is away!
And let me tend you this advice, my dear:
Take any lover that you will, or may,
Except a poet. All of them are queer.
It's just the same -- a quarrel or a kiss
Is but a tune to play upon his pipe.
He's always hymning that or wailing this;
Myself, I much prefer the business type.
That thing he wrote, the time the sparrow died --
(Oh, most unpleasant -- gloomy, tedious words!)
I called it sweet, and made believe I cried;
The stupid fool! I've always hated birds ...