Yes, I have a thousand tongues,
And nine and ninety-nine lie.
Though I strive to use the one,
It will make no melody at my will,
But is dead in my mouth.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Stephen Crane's poem Yes, I have a thousand tongues


  1. jesus says:

    i think14 tounges represent a lie name it 7 tounges so it can be a holy poem

  2. Alex says:

    a tongue often represents a language. I believe this is a world reference, the world speaks a thousand languages, but only one language is that of truth… not a literal language mind you… not like English or Spanish. But a figurative language. It would then make sense if you thought of the word dead as describing a dead language, such as Latin. A dead language that the world no longer uses.

  3. Mike says:

    -i try not to be, but i am a liar- thats it… thats all there is to this poem

  4. DC says:

    in the Iliad (book 2) Homer says he needs 10 mouths with 10 tongues to catalogue the greeks’ ships. Virgil makes a jokey allusion to this in the Georgics, saying he needs 100 mouths/tongues to name all the trees there are. I think he might say something similar in the Aeneid too but can’t remember the reference. Basically I think it became a topos in classical literature, with quite a few Latin writers post Virgil (lucilus, persius spring to mind, poss there are others) saying they needed 10/100/1000 extra mouths/tongues. Not sure if Mr Crane is alluding to the classical tradition, but there it is.

  5. john says:

    You are taking this too literally. The 999 tounges represent lies and that it is easier to tell a lie than to tell the truth.

  6. Bec says:

    Isn’t this poem stange? He finds it easier to lie than tell the truth then he dies?!? Why would he have 1000 tongues any way?

  7. Chevy says:

    There are times that I have found myself in a cold-hearted rage, poison coming up from my heart and out my mouth, NOT listening to the small voice inside me saying, “you’re going to regret this.”

  8. Bryan says:

    I believe Crane is talking about his characters. He has spoken in a thousand tongues, but everyone is a distortion of his true voice. His inner world can only be expressed through these fictional voices because he believes his ability to express himself authentically is dead. On some level I think he believes we all have this problem.

  9. Kevin says:

    What most amazes me about this poem is that, according to the information, he wrote it five years after he died.

    Which toungue was that?

  10. Hannah says:

    The poem isn’t really that complicated. Crane is just trying to point out how it’s easier for mankind to lie then to speak the truth. As one lies more and more the truth becomes lost, hence the other tongue is “dead in his mouth”. Haha…speaks a thousand languages…..ohhh…that’s a laugh

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Stephen Crane is telling us that he has a thousand tongues, which probably symbolize personalities. He is telling us that he has many personalities and that they all lie. He tries to use the one that is true to himself, but it doesn’t work, *dead* as he says. That is showing how he probably conforms to society and shows them all the different things they want to see that he never has time to use his other *tongue* and it later dies. As it dies, it shows that he is basically dead to himself and can’t be real and doesn’t know how to be himself or speak the truth because he had to have so many other aliases. We all fight within ourselves and when we let the fake parts control us then we lose ourselves and we die to us, and only live to society.
    i like this poem very much, it is very symbolic!

  12. Zack says:

    Hey Mike,
    I dont think He’s saying he Speakes a thousand languages, What he’s saying is that He Speaks, As in “a picture holds a thousand words”, Same premes, Just that he speaks And He cant seem to Make truth of what he speaks, thought he tries. Thats my thoughts.

  13. kim says:

    well, if he has 100 tounges then i bet hes a bad kisser.

  14. micheala says:

    that is a confusing poem how can you have 1000 tongues
    that would be hard to fit in your mouth i mean i can hardly fit one in my mouth so sorry to be smart was a verry cool poem. God bless you all

  15. Mike says:

    I rather like this poem in particular against the rest of his work that i have read. He claims to speak 1000 languages and all but one lie. Lying can come in MANY forms but truth can only come in one. hence the 999 lying tongues and the one, singular one that speaks only truth…but is dead to his mouth

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