Silence and Violence

After I had written and posted the last two articles, up popped into my head the half-forgotten lyrics to Simon and Garfunkel’s song The Sound of Silence. For my part, I find them as prophetic and pertinent still today as W.B. Yeats’ enduring poem The Second Coming. They words capture something enduringly truthful about language and society, and the unarticulated silences (the solitudes) between different groups and classes of people that “like a cancer grows” until it erupts in social or political violence — war or revolution. The social tower of Babel here is “talking without speaking,” “hearing without listening” and the futility of writing songs “that voices never share” in their common isolation and insulation.

Hence, also, the significance of that profound observation that “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls.” The very words which I mentioned in the previous to last post on “Where There Is No Vision”…. “No Future, No Hope”.

I have to conclude that it’s one of the greatest songs ever written.


Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with 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

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched 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

“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence

4 responses to “Silence and Violence”

  1. amothman33 says :

    I never expected you to be so pessemistic. The god of the neon is collapsing.The sound of silence is striking.Artists are the prophets of our day .Read in their agony the waking call.We wouldnot feel light if there is no darkness. Nothing stands still, everything is changing. Cycles , the cycle of lie is closing. the cycle of truth is rising.There are always new visions to replace the decadent visions. our universe always embraces the opposites.

    • Scott says :

      I never expected you to be so pessemistic.

      Then you must have missed my earlier post when I mentioned I’m in constant struggle with my cynicism — even though, abdulamein, you don’t seem to miss much.

      I was just listening to a fantastic piece of music by the band “Lone Justice” with Maria McKee. The song (called “Belfry”) has a verse in it that suits my present mood,

      “Scarred, scourged, tattered,
      Vessels frayed and frail,
      The shield of faith is battered,
      But it will not lie down”

  2. amothman33 says :

    This is my expection. Battered but never lie down.I am going to look for Maria Mckee

    • Scott says :

      You might find it a little wild. It’s a rock music genre called “cowpunk”. But the album you want to be looking for by Lone Justice is called “Shelter”. The lines are from a song called “Belfry”.

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