Paul the Silentiary
Biography of Paul the Silentiary
Paul the Silentiary, also known as Paulus Silentiarius (Greek: Παῦλος ὁ Σιλεντιάριος, d. Constantinople, 575-580 AD), was a Greek poet. His contemporary, the historian and poet Agathias, describes him as a rich man and a 'Silentiary' or palace official of Justinian I at Constantinople. (This title has been taken to indicate that he was responsible for silence in the palace.)
Paul is best known and most admired for his short poems in the classical tradition, about 80 of which have been preserved in the Greek Anthology. Forty of these are love poems. Two are replies to poems by Agathias; in another Paul laments the death of Damocharis of Cos, Agathias's favorite pupil. These short poems also contain interesting social information.
He also composed in verse an ecphrasis or evocative account of Justinian's cathedral of the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia), describing its architecture and decoration after the reconstruction of the dome in 562. Paul sees the church as a 'meadow' of many-coloured marbles, and helps us to imagine the church before its many subsequent remodellings. The poem was probably commissioned by Justinian himself, and Paul had to read verses to the emperor through the inauguration. It consists of 1029 verses in Greek, starting with 134 lines of iambic trimeter, with the remainder in the classical meter of epic, dactylic hexameter.
He also wrote a poem about the hot springs at Pythia.
Paul died some time between 575 and 580.
Paul the Silentiary Poems
The Third Lamp
The third lamp of the lonely night Wastes silently away; It casts a feeble flickering light. Oh! why doth she delay?
Scarcely has the pencil Portrayed the girl's eyes, But not at all of her hair nor The supreme lustre of her skin.
I meant to bid thee, sweet, farewell, But it was not to be; I check the words I would have said, And stay, my love, with thee.
Who hangs a garland on the rose? How idle then the 'broidered vest, And studded fillet on thy brows, And pearls that fade upon thy breast;
On a Picture of a Female Lyrist in Const...
The painting does not justly show thy beauty, And would it had had the power to portray The sweet tones of thy melodious mouth,
On a Painting of Cynaegirus
The hands that dealt death to the Medes Were hewn off by axes as they rested On the curved stern of the ship Which was hastening away,
The Offering to Lais
These withered rendings of brow-wreathing rose; These shattered cups, where no more foams and flows Wine's strength; this tress of myrrh-anointed hair; Lais, from Anaxagoras' despair
My name, my country, what are they to thee? What, whether proud or base my pedigree? Perhaps I far surpassed all other men;
A Lovely Lie
A witching smile my Eumenis endears, But mightier is the magic of her tears. But yesterday, from some unthought-of cloud, Came sudden gusts of sobs, her head was bowed
A Late Convert
A that in youth had never been The servant of the Paphian Queen, I that in youth had never felt The shafts of Eros pierce and melt,
How long, how long do ye still mean, mine eyes, To drain the nectarous draught of Love divine? Have not ye learned at last to be more wise
Galatea slammed her door In my face, and furthermore Added scorn thereto. How is it that people say
Daphnis the Piper
Daphnis the piper, trembling 'neath the load Of years, this crook, his feeble hand no more Had force to wield, to Pan, the shepherd's god,
How long, how long do ye still mean, mine eyes,
To drain the nectarous draught of Love divine?
Have not ye learned at last to be more wise
Than thus to drink of beauty's unmixed wine?
As far, far off as me my strength may bring,
Let me escape, and there in calm and ease,
I will pour out a sober offering
And seek a milder Cypris to appease.