Poetic Devices: Simon & Garfunkel - The Sound of Silence

Now this selection might get some resistance.

Back in high school, my music teacher recommended I do a saxophone solo of a song by these guys for the spring concert, I gave him a look thinking - Okay, buddy.  I don't think so.  And I've never even heard any of their songs.  I just know it was one of the less cooler bands my dad listened to.

You can always convince your students that Simon & Garfunkel where around way before the explosion of YouTube acoustic cover artists.  But the lyrics are rich with poetic devices (similes, metaphors, oxymoron, personification, rhyme, imagery and so on), it's just ridiculous not to use it in a poetry class. 

The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel
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
The song also reminds me of T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock".  But that might be too advanced for high school students, maybe try it with gifted students. 

This idea actually reminds me of a contemporary lit course I took in first year at UofT.  Nick Mount teaches a course called "Literature for Our Time" and we had a course website and our own soundtrack with songs related to the poems and novels we read throughout the year.  He still teaches the course at UofT and has ENG 140: The Soundtrack for 2010-2011.  Check it out!

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