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,

Self-appeasing, self-affrighting,

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,

Wounded all,

Torn and tossed themselves by the Shrike horde’s fury,

Found the body of Fedmahn Kassad

Still wrapped in death’s embrace with the

Silent Shrike.

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.

Multitudes sang.

Rat things poked among fallen pennants

In the field where heroes fell,

While the wind whispered among carapace

And blade, steel and thorn.

And thus,

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

the Earth,

their shadows circling in stately procession;

now mingling, now contracting to midday,

finally stretching eastward with the dying of the day.

Royal oak.

Giant elms.

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

the wind.

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