Within the sound of silence


I think I’ve mentioned that I’m studying the Romantic poets. Well, since I’m virtually breathing poetry and dreaming about clouds, daffodils, Mont Blanc, sonnets, epics, quatrains, couplets and blank verse,  it got me thinking. Why do most –  not all – readers no longer read poetry either for pleasure or intellectual stimulation?  Excuse the generalisation, I know a lot of WordPress bloggers write poetry, and so probably read it too. But don’t you think there is something very appealing about a world which revelled in poetry and avidly read it aloud, and made poets like Wordsworth, Byron and Shelley into celebrities? Do you think we have any poetic equivalents in the digital world of the 21st century? The closest I think, apart from actual living, breathing poets, would be writers of music lyrics.

As a quick escape from Shelley (!), I decided to take a look at one of my favourite songs: Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence (a couple of verses) to see if it could pass as poetry.

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk to you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.

The verses make use of the devices of poetry, a rhyme scheme, repetition of sounds, words, letters and enjambment and, if you read it aloud and ignore the music that goes with it, it is pure poetry.

Wordsworth, Shelley et al, wrote from the heart to deliver highly personal, insightful, meaningful poetry. In the days before TV and social media, people read poetry aloud and discussed their meaning and form. The poems of Wordsworth were about nature and personal growth and no doubt, each reader gleaned something different, something personal  from the words. Sounds of Silence has the same effect on me; when I hear the song it means something unique to me, it reminds me of particular situations in my life, it resonates. Good music lyrics, and I do mean good – One Direction’s don’t quite cut it – engender a visceral, personal reaction, much like the poets of old.

Even though the Romantic poets are proving a little challenging, I am enjoying immersing myself in words and images and trying to understand what each poem means to me. So, even if you don’t read poetry, take a minute to think about a song that means something to you and look at the lyrics; you might just find some.

Do you have a favourite song that reads aloud like a poem? Do you agree that songs are the poems of our era?  Do you have a favourite?


Categories: Just Plain Blog

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9 replies

  1. Good luck with your studies, Sally. You make an interesting point here. The image of the Romantic poet has endured, even if our appreciation of their words has faded with time. 🙂

  2. Ah, Sally! Good piece, but I think you answered your own question. People don’t read poetry so much because they listen to music. Back in their day, Wordsworth, Byron and Shelley did not have the ability to record and sell their poetry (lyrics) and so the only way to achieve their aim of ‘spreading their good words’ was via poetry sold in books. Who knows there might have been a Lennon and Shelley or a Holland, Byron & Holland! Interesting piece though, thought provoking. Me & Mrs H. got poetry books for Christmas, haven’t read them yet. x

    • Good point Mr H except there are many contemporary poets around that could be read! Lovely to hear from you.

      • Not necessarily, ‘except’! Perhaps we are not ‘trained’ or helped to read poetry enough. For many the business of reading usually falls into a quest for knowledge or the quest for a good tale, a story, a gripping yarn or whatever. Perhaps the reading of poetry is just not encouraged enough. A fewe years ago we were staying with some people along with a professor of Elizabethan poetry, as you do, and he recited, from memory, the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Way more gripping and interesting than reading it. Poetry, like song lyrics, is better heard than read. . .the opposite to children. . .

  3. I have lots of favorites, but the one that first came to my mind when I read your question was “Murder of One” by Counting Crows. It contains a simple nursery rhyme along with what I call ‘deeper thoughts’. The perfect mixture for my eccentric self.

    Blue morning Blue morning Wrapped in strands of fist and bone
    Curiosity, Kitten,
    Doesn’t have to mean you’re on your own
    You can look outside your window
    He doesn’t have to know
    We can talk awhile, baby
    We can take it nice and slow
    All your life is such a shame, shame, shame
    All your love is just a dream, dream, dream
    Are you happy when you’re sleeping?
    Does he keep you safe and warm?
    Does he tell you when you’re sorry?
    Does he tell you when you’re wrong?
    I’ve been watching you for hours
    It’s been years since we were born
    We were perfect when we started
    I’ve been wondering where we’ve gone
    All your life is such a shame
    All your love is just a dream
    I dreamt I saw you walking up a hillside in the snow
    [- From: http://www.elyrics.net -]
    Casting shadows on the winter sky as you stood there
    counting crows
    One for sorrow Two for joy
    Three for girls and four for boys
    Five for silver Six for gold and
    Seven for a secret never to be told
    There’s a bird that nests inside you
    Sleeping underneath your skin
    When you open up your wings to speak
    I wish you’d let me in
    All your life is such a shame
    All your love is just a dream
    Open up your eyes
    You can see the flames of your wasted life
    You should be ashamed
    You don’t want to waste your life
    I walk along these hillsides In the summer ‘neath the sunshine
    I am feathered by the moonlight falling down on me
    Change, change, change


  4. Sounds of Silence is one of my favourites, it will be interesting to see if anyone mentions Dylan

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