Martin Silenus – "Our Poet"
Martin Silenus is the foul-mouthed, alcoholic, thousand-year-old poet from The Hyperion Cantos, written by Dan Simmons. For those Martinites out there, I thought one might appreciate a summary of all Silenus poetry (originally written by John Keats and Chaucer) to be found in the series:
(Hyperion, p. 16)
No smell of death—there shall be no death, moan, moan;
Moan, Cybele, moan; for thy pernicious Babes
Have changed a god into a shaking palsy.
Moan, brethren, moan, for I have no strength left;
Weak as the reed—weak—feeble as my voice—
Oh, oh, the pain, the pain of feebleness.
Moan, moan, for still I thaw…
(Hyperion, p. 25)
He seyde, ‘Syn I shal bigynne the game,
What, welcome be the cut, a Goddes name!
Now lat us ryde, and herkneth what I seye.’
And with that word we ryden oure weye;
And he bigan with right a myrie cheere
His tale anon, and seyde as ye may here.
(Hyperion, p. 104)
Deep in the shady sadness of a vale
Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
Far from the fiery noon, and eve’s one star,
Sat gray-hair’d Saturn, quiet as a stone,
Still as the silence round about his lair;
Forest on forest hung above his head
Like cloud on cloud…
(Hyperion, p. 230)
Without story or prop
But my own weak mortality, I bore
The load of this eternal quietude,
The unchanging gloom, and the three fixed shapes
Ponderous upon my senses a whole moon.
For by my burning brain I measured sure
Her silver seasons shedded on the night
And ever day by day I thought I grew
More gaunt and ghostly—Oftentimes I prayed,
Intense, that Death would take from the vale
And all its burdens—Gasping with despair
Of change, hour after hour I cursed myself.
Then I saw a wan face
Not pinned by human sorrows, but bright blanched
By an immortal sickness which kills not’
It works a constant change, which happy death
Can put no end to; deathwards progressing
To no death was that visage; it had passed
The lily and the snow; and beyond these
I must not think now, though I saw that face…
(Hyperion, p. 241)
Where’s the Poet? Show him! Show him,
Muses mine, that I may know him!
‘Tis the man who with a man
Is an equal, be he king,
Or poorest of the beggar-class,
Or any other wondrous thing
A man may be ‘twixt ape and Plato.
‘Tis the man who with a bird
Wren or eagle, finds his way to
All its instincts. He hath heard
The lion’s roaring, and can tell
What his horny throat expresseth,
And to him the tiger’s yell
Comes articulate and presseth
On his ear like mother-tongue.
(Hyperion, p. 244)
Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands dressed?
What little town by river or sea-shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul, to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.
(Hyperion, p. 309)
Considering that, all hatred driven hence,
The soul recovers radical innocence
And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
And that its own sweet will is Heaven’s will;
She can, though every face will scowl
And every windy quarter howl
Or every bellows burst, be happy still.
(The Fall of Hyperion, p. 135)
Ne cared he for wine, or half-and-half,
Ne cared he for fish or flesh or fowl,
And sauces held he worthless as the chaff;
He ‘sdained the swine-herd at the wassail-bowl,
Ne with lewd ribbalds sat he cheek by jowl,
Ne with sly Lemans in the scorner’s chair,
But after water-brooks this Pilgrim’s soul
Panted, and all his food was woodland air
Though he would oft-times feast on gillyflowers rare.
(Endymion, p. 29)
And the river that had flowed on
For two centuries or more
Linked through space and time
By the tricks of TechnoCore
Ceased flowing now
On Fuji and on Barnard’s World
On Acteon and Deneb Drei
On Esperance and Nevermore.
Everywhere the Tethys ran,
Like ribbons through
The worlds of man,
There the portals worked no more,
There the riverbeds ran dry,
There the currents ceased to swirl
Lost were the tricks of the TechnoCore,
Lost were the travelers forevermore
Locked the portal, locked the door,
Flowed the Tethys, nevermore.
(Endymion, p. 103)
In the wide sea there lives a forlorn wretch,
Doomed with enfeebled carcass to outstretch
His loathed existence through ten centuries,
And then to die alone. Who can devise
A total opposition? No one. So
A million times ocean must ebb and flow,
And he oppressed. Yet he shall not die,
These things accomplished. If he utterly
Scans all depths of magic, and expounds
The meanings of all motions, shapes and sounds;
If he explores all forms and substances
Straight homeward to their symbol-essences;
He shall not die. Moreover, and in chief,
He must pursue this task of joy and grief
Most piously—all lovers tempest-tossed,
And in the savage overwhelming lost,
He shall deposit side by side, until
Time’s creeping shall the dreary space fulfil;
Which done, and all these labours ripened,
A youth, by heavenly power loved and led,
Shall stand before him, whom he shall direct
How to consummate all. The youth elect
Must do the thing, or both will be destroyed.
(The Rise of Endymion, p. 526)
…Later, in the death carnage of the valley,
Moneta and a few of the Chosen Warriors,
Torn and tossed themselves by the Shrike horde’s fury,
Found the body of Fedmahn Kassad
Still wrapped in death’s embrace with the
Lifting the warrior, carrying him, touching him
With reverence born of loss and battle,
They washed and tended this ravaged body,
And bore him to the Crystal Monolith.
Here the hero was laid on a bier of white marble,
Weapons were set at his feet,
In the valley beyond, a great bonfire filled
The air with light.
Human men and women carried torches
Through the dark,
While others descended, wingsoft, through
Morning lapis lazuli,
And some others arrived in faery craft, bubbles of light,
While still others descended on wings of energy
Or wrapped in circles of green and gold.
Later, as the stars burned in place,
Moneta made her farewells to her future’s
Friends and entered the Sphinx.
Rat things poked among fallen pennants
In the field where heroes fell,
While the wind whispered among carapace
And blade, steel and thorn.
In the Valley,
The great Tombs shimmered,
Faded from gold to bronze,
And started their long voyage back.
(The Rise of Endymion, p. 699)
Fragile twilights fading from fuchsia to purple
above the crepe-paper silhouettes of trees
beyond the southwest sweep of lawn.
Skies as delicate as translucent china,
unscarred by cloud or contrail.
The presymphony hush of first light followed
by the cymbal crash of sunrise.
Oranges and russets igniting to gold,
the long, cool descent to green:
leaf shadow, shade, tendrils of cypress
and weeping willow, the hushed
green velvet of the glade.
Mother’s estate—our estate—a thousand acres
centered in a million more. Lawns the size
of small prairies with grass so perfect it
beckoned a body to lie on it,
to nap on its soft perfection.
Noble shade trees making sundials of
their shadows circling in stately procession;
now mingling, now contracting to midday,
finally stretching eastward with the dying of the day.
Cottonwood and cypress and redwood and bonsai.
Banyan trees lowering new trunks
like smooth-sided columns in a temple
roofed by sky.
Willows lining carefully laid canals and haphazard
their hanging branches singing ancient dirges to
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