A word for the loud roaring of blood in your ears, the sussurus of waves of air in the inner channel of the ear.

Silence

    THERE is a silence where hath been no sound,
    There is a silence where no sound may be,
    In the cold grave--under the deep, deep, sea,
    Or in wide desert where no life is found,
    Which hath been mute, and still must sleep profound;
    No voice is hushed--no life treads silently,
    But clouds and cloudy shadows wander free,
    That never spoke, over the idle ground:
    But in green ruins, in the desolate walls
    Of antique palaces, where Man hath been,
    Though the dun fox, or wild hyena, calls,
    And owls, that flit continually between,
    Shriek to the echo, and the low winds moan,
    There the true Silence is, self-conscious and alone.

    Thomas Hood (1799-1845)


Poet, satirist and humorist, his The Last Man is said to have inspired Mary Shelley's novel of the same name. Thomas Hood was an English poet famous for his humorous verse. A great wit with puns which was the true power of his mind. I have had a few students over the years in the field of education that could drive most teachers to distraction with word plays that I saw as welcome additions to (and was frequently criticized for by peers) a lesson here and there. Some teachers thought these kids were more of a nuisance, but for the most part the entertainment was welcomed as long as it was within reason. Knowing many others would benefit it made for more powerful writers, after all the primary goal in teaching is to teach students to think critically.

To have enough of an understanding of words and their meanings to craft a novel idea, well that is quite a talent and Thomas Hood possessed just this gift. For a while he was a sort of "sub editor" of London Magazine during its heyday from 1821 until 1823 . At the time there were a number of members from the great literary circles of the era including Charles Lamb, Thomas De Quincey, and William Hazlitt. In 1827 he published a volume of poems strongly influenced by Keats by the title of Plea of the Midsummer Fairies. Yet he was known primarily as a humorous writer and won his reputation for the most part through his compositions for the Comic Annual between 1830 and 1840, in which he deftly caricatured events and contemporary figures.

Hood had also a serious side, and a deep sympathy for the poor. You may be interested in another of his poems written about here called The Song of the Shirt which reveals his feelings about the social evils of the day; sweat shops, unemployment, and the double sexual standard.

When he did write about a more sedate subject like Silence, he was able to produce a remarkable sonnet like this one. Submitted only to be rejected by the London Magazine in February 1823, it was later printed in the Burton's Gentleman's Magazine issue for September of 1839. You might recognize the first verse:

    There is a silence where hath been no sound
    There is a silence where no sound may be
    In the cold grave, under the deep, deep sea.
It's from the movie, The Piano where it is recited in voice-over by Ada.

Deep thoughts are not necessary to good poetry and there is nothing profound here however there is a unique conceit and that is the idea that there are two kinds of silence, that where life has never been, and that which flows back after man has come and gone. Hiking along fragile desert trails in the shadowless heat of summer there are times one can glimpse this after image of silence. It's the one that comes into focus at the point of no longer appearing natural or spontaneous, the showing of a realization of certain knowledge.

One is struck by the maze of upright rocks, ancient sandstone giants keeping mute vigil over vanished civilizations. How powerful a poem is this one that has the ability to please one hundred and fifty years after it was written.

Sources:

Blair, Bob:
http://www.geocities.com/~bblair/000523.htm

minstrels Silence -- Thomas Hood:
www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/

Public Domain text taken from the Poet’s Corner:
http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/hood01.html#3

CST Approved.

I check when the sunrise occurs and try to be outside for this event. I notice the calmness of the earth. I see the sky preparing to shed its darkness when the sunlight begins to envelop it, painting colors and shapes. I look at the birds standing near, awakening to the new day. There is a silence here, and everything is emanating from the stillness. This is a rebirth which has occurred for eons.

Then simply I'm attentive to every sensation. Is there any difference between my perception of the morning stillness and that within my own heart? I feel where they merge. They do it in myself.

What I perceive is this moment and the evolving world. I feel I am all that I perceive, and there is no boundaries between me and it. Thus I am it and there is nothing else.

Hence I shall stop the seeking of one more moment. And so I accept the freedom I have always been, i.e. the pure silence of now from which the whole universe springs and eventually will return unto infinity.

The universe does not dream.

Silence is so loud.
It says more than words.
Silence is so loud.
You can hear it bounce off the walls.

Silence will rule the world.
It says everything words can't.
Silence will rule the world.
It conquers all.

Silence is good.
It keeps the peace.
Silence is bad.
It breaks the heart.

Silence is so loud.
It says more than words.
Silence is so loud.
You hear it bounce off the walls.

Si"lence (?), n. [F., fr. L. silentium. See Silent.]

1.

The state of being silent; entire absence of sound or noise; absolute stillness.

I saw and heared; for such a numerous host Fled not in silence through the frighted deep. Milton.

2.

Forbearance from, or absence of, speech; taciturnity; muteness.

3.

Secrecy; as, these things were transacted in silence.

The administration itself keeps a profound silence. D. Webster.

4.

The cessation of rage, agitation, or tumilt; calmness; quiest; as, the elements were reduced to silence.

5.

Absence of mention; oblivion.

And what most merits fame, in silence hid. Milton.

 

© Webster 1913.


Si"lence, interj.

Be silent; -- used elliptically for let there be silence, or keep silence.

Shak.

 

© Webster 1913.


Si"lence, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Silenced (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Silencing (?).]

1.

To compel to silence; to cause to be still; to still; to hush.

Silence that dreadful bell; it frights the isle. Shak.

2.

To put to rest; to quiet.

This would silence all further opposition. Clarendon.

These would have silenced their scruples. Rogers.

3.

To restrain from the exercise of any function, privilege of instruction, or the like, especially from the act of preaching; as, to silence a minister of the gospel.

The Rev. Thomas Hooker of Chelmsford, in Essex, was silenced for nonconformity. B. Trumbull.

4.

To cause to cease firing, as by a vigorous cannonade; as, to silence the batteries of an enemy.

 

© Webster 1913.

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