Who Is Silvia




Shakespeare’s poem, Who is Silvia? is from Shakespeare’s first romantic comedy: The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

The song, which praises Silvia’s beauty, virtue and wisdom, is sung by Proteus outside her tower window in order to woo her.

In my wildest dreams, I like to think that I could be like Silvia.

Or perhaps not.

Alas, I’m past the age when swains come calling.

Since I’m married to an aging swain whom I love dearly, I suppose it really is a blessing in disguise that I don’t have to contend with hoards of amorous young swains every time I answer my doorbell or go out for a walk!

Not only that, I would find it very difficult to “adorèd be”.

People who are adorèd be have a lot of responsibility.

For starters, they have to get dressed in the morning. I, on the other hand, can bask in the morning sunshine streaming through my window while I sit, comfortably clad in my favourite grungy bathrobe, typing to my heart’s content without having to worry about swains commending me.

Also, I find it quite distracting when people sing to me. While I do enjoy singing, unless I’m in church or at a concert I much prefer ordinary conversation when discoursing with friends.

And since I don’t need any more garlands, I think I’ll just be content to be plain old Val.

However, I would like to be holy, fair, wise and kind. I’m working on it, but you know how it is sometimes. (You do, don’t you? 😀 )

Here is a lovely, ‘a capella’ rendition of ‘Who is Silvia’ presented by The King’s Singers. (I particularly like the ‘doong doong, doonga doong-doong’ bass rendition. Turn your speakers up a bit to hear it!) Please note: this video doesn’t get going until the 28 seconds mark but it is well worth the wait! (Hover your mouse over the video and the timer will appear at the bottom left. If ads appear, just click the x to turn them off. I have no control over the ads in the video.)

“An Sylvia”, Op 106 n°4, D 891, by Franz Schubert


Who is Silvia? what is she,
That all our swains commend her?
Holy, fair and wise is she;
The heaven such grace did lend her,
That adorèd she might be.

Is she kind as she is fair?
For beauty lives with kindness.
Love doth to her eyes repair,
To help him of his blindness,
And, being helped, inhabits there.

Then to Silvia let us sing,
That Silvia is excelling;
She excels each mortal thing
Upon the dull earth dwelling:
To her let us garlands bring.