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The Prisoner of Chillon: A Fable

The Prisoner of Chillon: A Fable


by George Gordon, Lord Byron

Stanza 2 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 27-35

  • The second stanza begins by describing the speaker's prison. The dungeon has seven Gothic-looking pillars (a Gothic pillar, if you were wondering, is one that holds up Gothic-style arches. Rather than go into an art history lesson, we'll just refer you to the image of a Gothic pillar in the "Best of the Web" section. Go check it out if you're curious, and then come back. We'll wait.)
  • The seven pillars probably represent each of the seven members of the speaker's family (his father, his five brothers, and him).
  • The seven columns are massive ("massy") and "dim" – no wonder, dungeons aren't known for their bright lighting.
  • Even the single "sunbeam" that seems to have found its way into the dungeon looks "imprison'd" down there. The speaker even says that the "sunbeam" has gotten "lost" – light doesn't belong there.
  • The ray of light must have worked its way in through some crack or "cleft" in the wall.
  • The sunbeam "creep[s]" over the clammy, damp floor of the dungeon, and the speaker compares it to a "meteor lamp" in a "marsh" or swamp. Sounds pleasant!

Lines 36-44

  • Each of the seven pillars has a ring on it that holds a chain. The speaker says that the iron of the chains "canker[s]," or festers and plagues him.
  • He says that the "teeth" marks of the iron are still visible in his arms and legs – they won't wear off until he dies (i.e., until he is "done with this new day").
  • Even the "new day" is a source of pain for him since he hasn't seen a sunrise in so many years that he's lost count.

Lines 45-47

  • He stopped counting the days and years they'd spent in prison after his last brother died, and he alone survived.

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