“Shall I show joy or sorrow?” (Poem 31). Pain of loss – a study of Paulinus of Nola’s works

Marcin Wysocki

The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland , Poland


Unfortunately, Paulinus of Nola is not a very appreciated Father of the Church today, because he did not contribute much to the development of the dogmas of the early Church, and yet his contemporaries respected him and indicated him as an example and referred to his conversion and spiritual path. He was regarded as a spiritual master. Therefore, when discussing the issue of passiones, and above all the pain after the loss of loved ones, it is worth and should refer to the preserved works of Paulinus: his letters and poems. He himself experienced the tragic death of his brother, the premature death of his only son, and finally the death of his wife Therasia. All this allows us to find in his works an answer to the question of how to deal with emotions after the departure of a loved one and about a Christian interpretation of experiencing death and mourning. Thanks to the analyzes of the surviving Paulinus’ texts and their results, presented in this article, we can see that Paulinus, although educated on the classical models, shows the Christian understanding of mourning contained in the title question: on the one hand, he emphasizes its human side and the sadness over the passing of a loved one, on the other hand, he emphasizes the supernatural joy of salvation and being with God. In his works, Paulinus also shows other aspects of experiencing death, which together create a rich phenomenon expressed by four Stoic passiones: spes - metus - gaudium - dolor.


Paulinus of Nola, death, consolatio, passions, letter, poem

Paulinus Nolensis, Carmina, ed. A. Ruggiero: Paolino di Nola, I Carmi, Testo latino con traduzione italiana a cura di A. Ruggiero, vol. 1-2, Nola-Roma 1996, English trans. by P.G. Walsh: The Poems of St. Paulinus of Nola, Ancient Christian Writers 40, New York-Ramsey 1975.

Paulinus Nolensis, Epistulae, ed. G. Santaniello: Paolino di Nola, Le lettere, Testo latino con traduzione italiana a cura di G. Santaniello, t. 1-2, Nola 1992, English trans. by P.G. Walsh: Letters of St. Paulinus of Nola, vol. I-II, Ancient Christian Writers 35-36, New York-Ramsey 1966-1967.

Costanza S., Aspetti autobiografici nell’opera poetica di Paolino di Nola, in: Forma Futuri. Studi in onore del Card. M. Pellegrino, Torino 1975, pp. 454-471 = Aspetti autobiografici nell’opera poetica di Paolino di Nola, „Giornale Italiano di filologia” 27/6 (1975) pp. 265-277.

Costanza S., I rapporti tra Ambrogio e Paolino di Nola, in: Ambrosius Episcopus, Atti del Congresso internazionale di Studi ambrosiani nel XVI centenario della elevazione di Sant’Ambrogio alla cattedra episcopale, vol. 2, ed. G. Lazzati, Milano 1976, pp. 220-232.

Favez Ch., À propos des ‘consolations’. Note sur la composition du carmen 31 de Paulin de Nole, „Revue de Études Latines” 13 (1935) pp. 266-268.

Guttilla G., Osservazioni su alcuni motivi consolatori presenti nei Carmi di Paolino di Nola, „Messana” 16 (1995) pp. 29-39.

Guttilla G., Una nuova lettura del Carme 31 di S. Paolino di Nola, „Koinonia” 11 (1987) pp. 69-97.

Mencucci A., Consolatio: Carmen XXI. Traduzione, commento e note, Senigallia 1972.

Moricca V., La morte violenta di un fratello di Paolino di Nola, „Didaskaleion” 4 (1926) pp. 85-90.

Pałucki J., Epistolografia Paulina z Noli (355-430). Adresaci oraz okoliczności powstawania listów, in: Fructus Spiritus est Caritas. Księga jubileuszowa ofiarowana ks. prof. F. Drączkowskiemu, ed. M. Wysocki, Lublin 2011, pp. 305-314.

Pałucki J., Małżeństwo drogą doskonalenia chrześcijańskiego na podstawie epistolografii św. Paulina z Noli, „Vox Patrum” 57 (2012) pp. 469-481. DOI: https://doi.org/10.31743/vp.4146

Pałucki J., Świeccy adresaci listów Paulina z Noli, „Vox Patrum” 42-43 (2002) pp. 253-260. DOI: https://doi.org/10.31743/vp.7158

Pizzolato L.F., La „consolatio” cristiana per la morte nel sec. IV. Riflessioni metodologiche e tematiche, „Civiltà Classica e Cristiana” 6 (1985) pp. 441-474.

Pizzolato L.F., Morir giovani. Il pensiero antico di fronte allo scandalo della morte prematura, Letture cristiane del Primo Millennio XXII, Milano 1996.

Quacquarelli A., Una consolatio cristiana (Paul. Nol. Carm. 31), in: Atti del Convegno. XXXI Cinquantenario della morte di S. Paolino di Nola (431-1981), Roma 1983, pp. 121-141.

Ruggiero A., I rapporti tra Paolino di Nola e Terasia negli Scritti di Paolino e nella testimonianza di Ambrogio, Agostino, Girolamo e Gregorio di Tours, „Impegno e Dialogo” 15 (2006) pp. 147-165.

Ruggiero A., San Paolino maestro di fede e di vita, Napoli – Roma 1994.

Sivan H., The Death of Paulinus’ brother, „Rheinisches Museum für Philologie” 139/2 (1996) pp. 170-179.

Vercruysse J.-M., Le chrétien face à la mort d’après Paulin de Nole (Epistula 13 et Carmen 31), „Connaissance des Pères de l’Église” 123 (2011) pp. 50-60.

Vercruysse J.-M., Quand la consolation latine se drape dans un voile chrétien... chez Paulin de Nole, in: Littérature narrative et consolation. Approches historiques et théoriques, ed. E. Poulain-Gautret, Arras 2012, pp. 75-87.

Wysocki M., Chrześcijańska nadzieja w listach konsolacyjnych (św. Ambroży, św. Augustyn, św. Hieronim, św. Paulin), in: Nadzieje upadającego świata. Nadzieja w chrześcijańskiej epistolografii łacińskiej IV i V wieku (Ambroży, Augustyn, Hieronim, Paulin z Noli), eds M. Wysocki – J. Pałucki – M. Pyzik-Turska, Lublin 2019, pp. 217-234.

Wysocki M., To be a father is it only “looking after possessions and sons” (cfr. Epist. 39,2)? Paulinus of Nola’s view on the figure and the role of the father, w: La figura e il ruolo del padre nell'antichità classica e cristiana, eds C. Cheung – P. Mbote Mbote, Flumina ex Fontibus 22, Roma 2021, pp. 293-304.



Wysocki, M. (2022). “Shall I show joy or sorrow?” (Poem 31). Pain of loss – a study of Paulinus of Nola’s works. Vox Patrum, 82, 221–236. https://doi.org/10.31743/vp.13736

Marcin Wysocki  mwysocki@kul.pl
The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5448-5566


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Pursuant to the Act on Copyright and Related Rights of February 4, 1994, the Author of the publication grants the Publisher of the journal "Vox Patrum" a non-exclusive and free license to use the Work submitted for publication for an indefinite period of time on an unlimited territory in the following fields of use:
a. In the field of recording and reproducing the work - producing copies of the work using a specific technique, including printing, reprographic, magnetic recording and digital technology;
b. Within the scope of trading in the original or copies on which the work has been recorded - marketing, lending or renting the original or copies;
c. In the scope of disseminating the work in a manner other than specified in point b - public performance, exhibition, display, reproduction, broadcasting and rebroadcasting, as well as making the work available to the public, so that everyone can have access to it at a place and time chosen by them.
Moreover, the Author allows the Publisher free of charge to use and dispose of the compilations of the Works.
The publisher may grant sub-licenses.
Third parties may use the Works and other materials containing or based on the Works in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (also known as CC-BY-NC 4.0) license pattern.