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Edgar Lee Masters - Silence

I have known the silence of the stars and of the sea,
And the silence of the city when it pauses,
And the silence of a man and a maid,
And the silence of the sick
When their eyes roam about the room.
And I ask: For the depths,
Of what use is language?
A beast of the field moans a few times
When death takes its young.
And we are voiceless in the presence of realities --
We cannot speak.

A curious boy asks an old soldier
Sitting in front of the grocery store,
"How did you lose your leg?"
And the old soldier is struck with silence,
Or his mind flies away
Because he cannot concentrate it on Gettysburg.
It comes back jocosely
And he says, "A bear bit it off."
And the boy wonders, while the old soldier
Dumbly, feebly lives over
The flashes of guns, the thunder of cannon,
The shrieks of the slain,
And himself lying on the ground,
And the hospital surgeons, the knives,
And the long days in bed.
But if he could describe it all
He would be an artist.
But if he were an artist there would be deeper wounds
Which he could not describe.

There is the silence of a great hatred,
And the silence of a great love,
And the silence of an embittered friendship.
There is the silence of a spiritual crisis,
Through which your soul, exquisitely tortured,
Comes with visions not to be uttered
Into a realm of higher life.
There is the silence of defeat.
There is the silence of those unjustly punished;
And the silence of the dying whose hand
Suddenly grips yours.
There is the silence between father and son,
When the father cannot explain his life,
Even though he be misunderstood for it.

There is the silence that comes between husband and wife.
There is the silence of those who have failed;
And the vast silence that covers
Broken nations and vanquished leaders.
There is the silence of Lincoln,
Thinking of the poverty of his youth.
And the silence of Napoleon
After Waterloo.
And the silence of Jeanne d'Arc
Saying amid the flames, "Blessed Jesus" --
Revealing in two words all sorrows, all hope.
And there is the silence of age,
Too full of wisdom for the tongue to utter it
In words intelligible to those who have not lived
The great range of life.

And there is the silence of the dead.
If we who are in life cannot speak
Of profound experiences,
Why do you marvel that the dead
Do not tell you of death?
Their silence shall be interpreted
As we approach them. 

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Added: Mar 18 2005 | Viewed: 470 times | Comments and analysis of Silence by Edgar Lee Masters Comments (7)

Silence - Comments and Information

Poet: Edgar Lee Masters
Poem: Silence
Poem of the Day: Jan 25 2011

Comment 7 of 7, added on July 18th, 2014 at 10:24 PM.
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542iAX Wow, great article post.Really looking forward to read more. Really Cool.

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Comment 6 of 7, added on February 16th, 2011 at 10:59 PM.

I read this poem in high school. I was on the forensics team and read this in the poetry division. I won many awards for my presentation of Silence...Now, at 47, I can still recite it in the same prose as I did back then. It still has meaning in my life..and will always be a favorite.

Lisa Moore from United States
Comment 5 of 7, added on April 22nd, 2010 at 7:04 PM.
Silence

I first read this poem years ago in an English Lit. textbook. I remembered the 1st stanza, but could not for the life of me remember who wrote it. It's a beautiful poem, full of meaning and I'm glad that I found it again.

G. Hunter from United States

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