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Silence - A Fable Analysis



Author: Prose of Edgar Allen Poe Type: Prose Views: 1689

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'Eudosin d'orheon korhuphai te kai pharhagges'
'Prhones te kai charhadrhai.'
ALCMAN. (60 (10),646.)

The mountain pinnacles slumber; valleys, crags and caves are silent.


"LISTEN to me," said the Demon as he placed his hand upon my head. "The region of which I speak is a dreary region in Libya, by the borders of the river Zaire. And there is no quiet there, nor silence.
"The waters of the river have a saffron and sickly hue; and they flow not onwards to the sea, but palpitate forever and forever beneath the red eye of the sun with a tumultuous and convulsive motion. For many miles on either side of the river's oozy bed is a pale desert of gigantic water-lilies. They sigh one unto the other in that solitude, and stretch towards the heaven their long and ghastly necks, and nod to and fro their everlasting heads. And there is an indistinct murmur which cometh out from among them like the rushing of subterrene water. And they sigh one unto the other.
"But there is a boundary to their realm--the boundary of the dark, horrible, lofty forest. There, like the waves about the Hebrides, the low underwood is agitated continually. But there is no wind throughout the heaven. And the tall primeval trees rock eternally hither and thither with a crashing and mighty sound. And from their high summits, one by one, drop everlasting dews. And at the roots strange poisonous flowers lie writhing in perturbed slumber. And overhead, with a rustling and loud noise, the gray clouds rush westwardly forever, until they roll, a cataract, over the fiery wall of the horizon. But there is no wind throughout the heaven. And by the shores of the river Zaire there is neither quiet nor silence.
"It was night, and the rain fell; and falling, it was rain, but, having fallen, it was blood. And I stood in the morass among the tall and the rain fell upon my head --and the lilies sighed one unto the other in the solemnity of their desolation.
"And, all at once, the moon arose through the thin ghastly mist, and was crimson in color. And mine eyes fell upon a huge gray rock which stood by the shore of the river, and was lighted by the light of the moon. And the rock was gray, and ghastly, and tall, --and the rock was gray. Upon its front were characters engraven in the stone; and I walked through the morass of water-lilies, until I came close unto the shore, that I might read the characters upon the stone. But I could not decypher them. And I was going back into the morass, when the moon shone with a fuller red, and I turned and looked again upon the rock, and upon the characters;--and the characters were DESOLATION.
"And I looked upwards, and there stood a man upon the summit of the rock; and I hid myself among the water-lilies that I might discover the actions of the man. And the man was tall and stately in form, and was wrapped up from his shoulders to his feet in the toga of old Rome. And the outlines of his figure were indistinct--but his features were the features of a deity; for the mantle of the night, and of the mist, and of the moon, and of the dew, had left uncovered the features of his face. And his brow was lofty with thought, and his eye wild with care; and, in the few furrows upon his cheek I read the fables of sorrow, and weariness, and disgust with mankind, and a longing after solitude.
"And the man sat upon the rock, and leaned his head upon his hand, and looked out upon the desolation. He looked down into the low unquiet shrubbery, and up into the tall primeval trees, and up higher at the rustling heaven, and into the crimson moon. And I lay close within shelter of the lilies, and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude; --but the night waned, and he sat upon the rock.
"And the man turned his attention from the heaven, and looked out upon the dreary river Zaire, and upon the yellow ghastly waters, and upon the pale legions of the water-lilies. And the man listened to the sighs of the water-lilies, and to the murmur that came up from among them. And I lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude; --but the night waned and he sat upon the rock.
"Then I went down into the recesses of the morass, and waded afar in among the wilderness of the lilies, and called unto the hippopotami which dwelt among the fens in the recesses of the morass. And the hippopotami heard my call, and came, with the behemoth, unto the foot of the rock, and roared loudly and fearfully beneath the moon. And I lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude; --but the night waned and he sat upon the rock.
"Then I cursed the elements with the curse of tumult; and a frightful tempest gathered in the heaven where, before, there had been no wind. And the heaven became livid with the violence of the tempest --and the rain beat upon the head of the man --and the floods of the river came down --and the river was tormented into foam --and the water-lilies shrieked within their beds --and the forest crumbled before the wind --and the thunder rolled --and the lightning fell --and the rock rocked to its foundation. And I lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude; --but the night waned and he sat upon the rock.
"Then I grew angry and cursed, with the curse of silence, the river, and the lilies, and the wind, and the forest, and the heaven, and the thunder, and the sighs of the water-lilies. And they became accursed, and were still. And the moon ceased to totter up its pathway to heaven --and the thunder died away --and the lightning did not flash --and the clouds hung motionless --and the waters sunk to their level and remained --and the trees ceased to rock --and the water-lilies sighed no more --and the murmur was heard no longer from among them, nor any shadow of sound throughout the vast illimitable desert. And I looked upon the characters of the rock, and they were changed; --and the characters were SILENCE.
"And mine eyes fell upon the countenance of the man, and his countenance was wan with terror. And, hurriedly, he raised his head from his hand, and stood forth upon the rock and listened. But there was no voice throughout the vast illimitable desert, and the characters upon the rock were SILENCE. And the man shuddered, and turned his face away, and fled afar off, in haste, so that I beheld him no more."


Now there are fine tales in the volumes of the Magi --in the iron-bound, melancholy volumes of the Magi. Therein, I say, are glorious histories of the Heaven, and of the Earth, and of the mighty sea --and of the Genii that over-ruled the sea, and the earth, and the lofty heaven. There was much lore too in the sayings which were said by the Sybils; and holy, holy things were heard of old by the dim leaves that trembled around Dodona --but, as Allah liveth, that fable which the Demon told me as he sat by my side in the shadow of the tomb, I hold to be the most wonderful of all! And as the Demon made an end of his story, he fell back within the cavity of the tomb and laughed. And I could not laugh with the Demon, and he cursed me because I could not laugh. And the lynx which dwelleth forever in the tomb, came out therefrom, and lay down at the feet of the Demon, and looked at him steadily in the face.





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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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Wow, she is one of the most beautiful girls I have seen x

| Posted on 2017-11-12 | by a guest


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Poes\' Prose poem \"Silence A Fable\" was a response to the Transcendentalists of the day Which included Emerson who criticized Poe\'s use of Prose. Early in the movement\'s history, the term \"Transcendentalists\" was used as a pejorative term by critics, who were suggesting their position was beyond sanity and reason.

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a novel, The Blithedale Romance (1852), satirizing the movement, and based it on his experiences at Brook Farm, a short-lived utopian community founded on transcendental principles.Edgar Allan Poe wrote a story, \"Never Bet the Devil Your Head\", in which he embedded elements of deep dislike for transcendentalism, calling its followers \"Frogpondians\" after the pond on Boston Common. The narrator ridiculed their writings by calling them \"metaphor-run\" lapsing into \"mysticism for mysticism\'s sake\" and called it a \"disease.\" The story specifically mentions the movement and its flagship journal The Dial, though Poe denied that he had any specific targets.

In Poe\'s essay \"The Philosophy of Composition\" he offers criticism denouncing \"the excess of the suggested meaning... which turns into prose (and that of the very flattest kind) the so-called poetry of the so-called transcendentalists.
So we have in \"Silence, A Fable\" the use of extreme metaphor and Symbolic meanings descibing the Transcendentalists) a response to the use of the Transcendentalist use of it,Mocking them.Poe was in the Army early on and studies languages and classical literature.The water Lilies described were in Fact..The \"Frog-Pondians\".(The Man in a Toga and Sphinx represents the Ancient classical Greeks and Romans).The eye of the Amyrillis are Plants of the genus Amaryllis are known as belladonna lily..and no doubt Poe was aware of they\'re poisinious nature.
\"And the man turned his attention from the heaven, and looked out upon the dreary river Zaire, and upon the yellow ghastly waters, and upon the pale legions of the water-lilies. And the man listened to the sighs of the water-lilies, and to the murmur that came up from among them.\"
There was, a second wave of transcendentalists, including Moncure Conway, Octavius Brooks Frothingham, Samuel Longfellow and Franklin Benjamin Sanborn. Notably, the transgression of the spirit, most often evoked by the poet\'s prosaic voice, is said to endow in the reader a sense of purposefulness.
This underlying theme in the majority of transcendentalist essays and papers—all of which are centered on subjects which assert a love for individual expression and Classical Prose.
Transcendentalists were strong believers in the power of the individual and divine messages. Their beliefs are closely linked with those of the Romantics(Following Classicism in Literature)
In Poe\'s line he makes fun of them..
\"But there is a boundary to their realm--the boundary of the dark, horrible, lofty forest. There, like the waves about the Hebrides, the low underwood is agitated continually. But there is no wind throughout the heaven. And the tall primeval trees rock eternally hither and thither with a crashing and mighty sound. And from their high summits, one by one, drop everlasting dews. And at the roots strange poisonous flowers lie writhing in perturbed slumber.\"
One might also read one line as..
The Low Man under would be continually agitated..
The The forrest the symbolic Ideal of the Transcentalist Ideal of Nature and God.
From their \"Lofty Summits\"..Note the flowers being given a human quality..under the lofty trees(leaders of the Transcendentalists)

| Posted on 2013-04-25 | by a guest


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It seems to me that the demon is talking to the ghost/soul of the man on the rock. They are reviewing his life. The demon hides from him when the man is alive, but in contrast has no need to hide from him in his passed state, and seems actually to be acting as a guide/historian in all the things that have passed since the death of the man. The ghost of the man seems to be not at rest, having lived a difficult and conflicted life his spirit does not seemed to have found rest and the demon seems to find humor in the inescapability of the human condition as well as the entirety of the cosmos.
The point of the story seems to come down to the belief that life is short and brutal, but it is LIFE and still preferable to death which is silence that is overwhelming, death is oblivion. The universe consists of nothing more then temporary islands/moments/seconds of stability (life/matter) being in temporary states of cohesion before ceasing and reverting back to silence and cosmic and Normal state which is chaos.
The lynx seems to be chaos, simply knowing, waiting, for the cosmic status qou to return.

| Posted on 2013-01-11 | by a guest


.: :.

I AGREE EVRYONE THINKS THAT THIS IS SO GOOD AND HE KNOWS HOW TO DO THIS BUT HE DOESNT HE JUST CANT DO IT.I CAN WRITE BETTER POEMS THAN HIM!

| Posted on 2012-10-04 | by a guest


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BORING! I HAVE SEEN BETTER!.THIS IS HORRIFIC IN ITS OWN WAY THAT IT IS BORING!

| Posted on 2012-10-04 | by a guest


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\"Careful what you wish for...\" like most behaviorally-compulsive misanthropes, Poe thought he yearned for the sort of idealized stateliness and propriety that might be associated with one\'s image of ancient Western cultures like Rome and the Greek states. However, being intelligent and perceptive, Poe probably realized that what he yearned for was really a fable, and would leave him unfulfilled even if he could be magically placed in such an idealized world, and that a state of power and control would eventually leave him terrified and fleeing like the man in his story (remember Poe was orphaned by circus actors). And that, in the end, there was only one satisfying conclusion to his--and perhaps all our--problem: the tomb. Somebody should re-write this story and we should all buy a copy.

| Posted on 2011-07-13 | by a guest


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Can anyone tell me why he chose Libya as a set?And why the river zaire? And what is al Aaraaf?!!?!?!

| Posted on 2011-01-10 | by a guest


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I do not favour reading too far into this work. I see a tumultous world, and a man who sits upon a rock to face it. When the man leaves, I cannot see any other reason than because of the silence, So, either the man cannot stand change, or he cannot be left alone in the silence to face his own thoughts. I like the second option more.
Ergo, I believe the moral of the story (as it is called a fable) is that man looks to other torments to hide from his own (and demons laugh at us for it?).

| Posted on 2010-12-24 | by a guest


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I believe this is actually the story of poe\'s life such as the man on the rock is Poe himself. And the desolation around him is the devastation going on in his life. The demon actually represents Poe\'s demons such as drinking problems, (the rain pouring down), behavioral problems (roaring hippos). His demons constantly devastated his life but he always brushed them away and kept writing. It wasn\'t until everyone near him was SILENCED that he finally gave into his demons and was inevitably scared (killed) by them. As he died from his alcoholism.

| Posted on 2010-12-04 | by a guest


.: :.

There are undoubtedly several layers to this work, many have been touched on above, but the most important has been ignored. It was a commentary on literary review. \"The Man\" is the poet/writer. The harsh environment is the populous. The demon is the literati (19th century usage).
It is intimidating in it\'s natural state. it is frightening but tolerable when the demon whips it up. But when the demon cuts it all off, the artist is driven off.
Poe despised the literati and was not cowed by it. However, he recognized that ostracism by the critics was far worse than any of their insults.
The lynx is representative of throwing it back in their faces. The critics Poe despised (the demon with which he could not laugh) never did anything worth discussing. They made no art. The lynx - embodying silence - was with them always in their tomb, staring them in the face.

| Posted on 2010-08-25 | by a guest


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I interpreted this poem as examining all the burdens that the human soul can face. While we can handle all the grievances of the outer world, death, as symbolized by silence, terrifies us.

| Posted on 2010-04-08 | by a guest


.: :.

i think the author was sad, almost resigned to a fate imposed on him.

| Posted on 2010-02-22 | by a guest


.: :.

The lynx in the story mirrors that of the demon and the man on the rock. At least thats what I infer from the story as the lynx laid at the feet of the demon and looked at him in the face

| Posted on 2009-12-08 | by a guest


.: :.

I think that there are three major themes to the story:
1. Despite man's "eye wild with care," individuals are ultimately alienated from society.
2. The most horrifying questions are those which hold no answers.
3. Death is the only solitude. It is the sole haven from "the fables of sorrow, weariness, and disgust with mankind."

| Posted on 2009-11-17 | by a guest


.: :.

To me this story says the most fearful thing for man is to have to contemplate himself and his own nature rather than outside elements.

| Posted on 2009-10-18 | by a guest


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I think that the main point of the story is that men are afraid of change. Most get used to the everyday problems of the world and do little about them because they are scared of change and what comes with.
In the story the man would represent human kind looking at problems or destructions with desolation but doing nothing about it. He stays and gets used to every chaotic events created by the deamon. "It was night, and the rain fell; and falling, it was rain, but, having fallen, it was blood" this sentence shows my interpretation in the sense that rain is a normal occurence and the fact that the rain that fell was blood explains that normalcy and is not always good but we get used to it.But when everything becomes still the man of the fable flees which goes to show that the man was used to chaos but when everything was calm and in silence he was scared or he didn't like it. Maybe because it was new and he didn't know what it implied. So he prefered fleeing the now unfamiliar ground whether or not it was much better than the previous chaos.
The end suggests that the man to whom the deamon tells the story to is dead and it makes him realize to late what he now thinks is the most valuable lesson of life. He can't laugh with the deamon because he is part of human kind and he regrets. The deamon then curses him for not laughing because that means that the man is not as corrupted as he would like him to be.The lynx seems to be the man since he comes out of the tomb and since the lynx had a reputation of having supernatural eyesight (see things that you normally can not)it means that it either sees the deamon in a new light or sees right through the deamon's intentions since it was staring steadily at the deamon
Another interpretation of the story might be that the man of the fable is God (the man was tall and stately in form, and was wrapped up from his shoulders to his feet in the toga of old Rome. And the outlines of his figure were indistinct--but his features were the features of a deity)looking, with disgust, at the destruction that humand kind created but doing nothing about it and then seemingly hating it more when men do not cause chaos.Maybe the deamon is trying to convince the man that God actually doesn't do anything about man's messes because it is what secretly ( deep down) entertains him.The man then finds his story very ingenious but after contemplating it in his tomb he faces the deamon with a steady gaze ( as if to confront him) and show him that he sees right through his lie and manipulative ways( since it's a lynx)

| Posted on 2009-08-22 | by a guest


.: :.

I believe that the story is symbolic of what the narrator should have done throughout the course of his own life.According to the demon, since the man fled, [he] beheld him no more.This means that the narrator should have fled as the man did. If he had fled, he would not have been in that cave with him.

| Posted on 2009-06-27 | by a guest


.: :.

I like the idea of the narrator being trapped in a tomb. It goes along well with the fable, since silence scared the thinking man into leaving, but the narrator lacked that ability to leave, and in the silence, a statue of a demon and his lynx "spoke" with him. This would be a very strong possibility if there is such a statue of a laughing demon with its lynx. Well, that's one idea.

In the desolation, the man, despite shudders in the solitude, remained thoughtful, and continued in that way despite the demon's continued attempts at causing a change, or at least that's what I assume the demon was doing. As noise increased, the man made no definite change, but the repeating lines of the shudder are important, and I think it means he shuddered to each change. Then, suddenly, silence, and the man leaves. I think that Poe's meaning is that desolation can lead to silence, and that is a time to abandon desolation.
Contrary to another opinion here, stating that silence helped recognize the importance of desolation, the man leaving at the silence leaves me to think the opposite, with the silence recognizing the folly of desolation. The man of the fable was stated to be in a mental state of sorrow in the passage:
"the few furrows upon his cheek I read the fables of sorrow, and weariness, and disgust with mankind, and a longing after solitude."
Solitude and desolation aren't so far off, and if the man longed for solitude, he longed for desolation, in a way. In time, he shuddered to it, and the scene was no less desolate when the silence came, but it was only when the silence came when the man desired desolation no more, because I doubt he'd just find a different place away from humanity to lament on whatever his issues are with it. I think the silence made him come to a realization.
Now this leads to another theory about the narrator and the demon. As said, perhaps the man is in fact dead in hell, and the fable was advise for what the man should have done in his past life. Perhaps he remained in desolation, which lead to silence, which could be a metaphor for death, which is sensible since we're talking about Poe here. It would also explain why the man considered that fable "the most wonderful of all" since it taught him what he truly did wrong in life, but since it was what he did wrong, the demon laughed, but the man could not, like it's hard to laugh at a joke on yourself, and perhaps the demon cursed him because he took it as the man not understanding the lesson, perhaps.
Even with this theory, I struggle to think of the significance of the Lynx. I consider the possibility of the narrator being reincarnated from his tomb with the lines:
"And the lynx which dwelleth forever in the tomb, came out therefrom, and lay down at the feet of the Demon, and looked at him steadily in the face."
The lynx dwelleth forever in a tomb, which I theorized was the narrator's tomb, therefore the lynx is the narrator, I think. Laying at the feet of the demon, with a steady look in the face, I'm not sure. Perhaps he was looking to the demon in gratitude, or him looking at him from the feet is stating the recognition of the lesson to the fable, or perhaps the feet, as in below the demon, is just another way of saying he's in hell. That's my current interpretation, anyway.

| Posted on 2009-05-31 | by a guest


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I think that the fable the demon tells is a way of saying that desolation and disorder are needed in order to learn and become better. And the only thing silence shows is how much desolation is needed..
I think the man in the tomb is dead. I doubt a demon would have a problem talking to the dead, or the man is in hell, a special part of hell. Silent part?? If the man was dead he would be unable to speak...probably..
I also thought of the biblical aspect..Like when Jesus was in the desert and the devil was tempting and tormenting him.
But I did wonder about the lynx. Why was it mentioned, why did it look into the face of the demon [like when the demon looked into the face of the man on the rock]?
It made me think that maybe the lynx is a demon as well..a smaller demon, of a lower rank..
Sorry if this does not make sense..Just what I thought.

| Posted on 2009-03-12 | by a guest


.: :.

an atheist would interpret this as since he was still thinking in the story than he is not dead but those who believe in life after death will more likely see it as his hell, his after death. i don't think it is crazy to come up with somethin so imaginative. it is art. your mind needs a release, for some people it is painting elaborate pictures to depict your feelings (though others may not understand how it relates to your feelings)and for others, like poe, it could be writing. when i feel an epiphany, or more at piece than the average day, i like to draw big magestic animals like elephants, but u might not know that just by looking at my work.

| Posted on 2009-03-12 | by a guest


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This poem is totally confusing, although it is a very good poem.

| Posted on 2009-01-30 | by a guest


.: :.

In a literal sence, Poe seems to be talking about death, the after life, and what he thinks it would be like. A demon is talking to a man in his grave, who might be on his way to heel for his sins. The demons "fable" couild be a lesson for the man on how he should of lived.

| Posted on 2009-01-21 | by a guest


.: :.

i think he is about as crazy as a fox and people dislike being alone and or deserted so they therefor have wild imaginations that may make them seem crazy but the buried alive thing was about the best interpetation i have heard so far

| Posted on 2008-12-04 | by a guest


.: :.

i think this goes to say that Man fears silence than confusion and disorder.

| Posted on 2008-10-30 | by a guest


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i don't know anything about this and it is do monday

| Posted on 2008-10-29 | by a guest


.: :.

Yea i have no idea what its bout and i have a report on it due friday =[[ idk what to do how to display his works but 2 put different scenes in the powerpoint

| Posted on 2008-10-21 | by a guest


.: It is a religious tale. :.

I think that the demon tried to sway the waterlilies(man) into sin, and that with that the man(God) lost all of his support from his creation man, and the demon is explaining what actually happened. The man has gone to hell, and he is being read why he is in hell.

| Posted on 2008-05-07 | by a guest


.: Buried alive?? :.

I think the man is buried alive. In turn the silence made him flippin' crazy. "I could not laugh with the demon. And he cursed me because I could not laugh." Implies that he is dumb (ie a 'mute') and that he is crazy.

"...the lynx...lay down at the feet of the Demon, and looked at him steadily in the face." -Implies the Demon is harmless. I think the Demon is quite literally a lifeless statue in a tomb.

The story told by the demon implies that that a man will go crazy in complete silence. Therefore, assuming the man is dumb, the demon is a product of the narrator's imagination, the only companion inside the tomb to listen to.

This is one of my favorite stories. My interpretations could be totally wrong, but I would like to hear how other people interpret it.

| Posted on 2007-03-20 | by a guest


.: :.

I think this just goes to show that E A Poe knew how to make his readers think. You'd think the first spell the demon casts, that of tulmut, would be more horrifying than that of silence. But once the reader thinks, what would be worse, noise or nothing?

| Posted on 2007-02-06 | by a guest


.: :.

I think this just goes to show that E A Poe knew how to make his readers think. You'd think the first spell the demon casts, that of tulmut, would be more horrifying than that of silence. But once the reader thinks, what would be worse, noise or nothing?

| Posted on 2007-02-06 | by a guest


.: :.

I guess the fable is about an arguments between 2 persons.
"It was night, and the rain fell; and falling, it was rain, but, having fallen, it was blood. And I stood in the morass among the tall and the rain fell upon my head --and the lilies sighed one unto the other in the solemnity of their desolation." that means: somebody is angry and shout at another person and for that person it's relieved, but it offends the sensibilities of the other one.

And the silence is the hardest chastisement between "friends".

| Posted on 2006-01-23 | by Approved Guest




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