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The Prisoner of Chillon: A Fable

The Prisoner of Chillon: A Fable


by George Gordon, Lord Byron

Stanza 8 Summary

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

Lines 164-175

  • The youngest brother, too, starts to waste away. This is particularly sad because he's the spitting image of his mother, and was always everyone's favorite.
  • And he's the speaker's last surviving brother, and the dearest of all of them! So the speaker tries to stay strong to help his baby brother – he can't bear the thought that his darling youngest brother will die in prison.
  • But even though the youngest brother's cheerful spirit never fails; he starts to waste away in prison.

Lines 176-183

  • The speaker says it's terrible, under any circumstances, to watch a person die – and he's seen plenty of people die.
  • He's watched people die violently ("in blood"), and he's seen them drown on "the breaking ocean," and he's seen people die of illness while "delirious" with fever.

Lines 184-189

  • Seeing people die has always been horrible, of course, but watching his youngest brother slowly waste away is a whole new level of sad.
  • His baby brother slowly "fade[s]," but never loses his sweet personality – he doesn't cry about the idea of dying, but only out of pity for "those he left behind."

Lines 190-201

  • At first, the healthy-looking color in the younger brother's cheeks seems to suggest that he'll survive, but that color fades as gradually and as surely as a "rainbow" that fades in the sky.
  • His eyes are so bright that the speaker imagines that they almost light up the dreariness of the dungeon.
  • The younger brother is so patient that he never once complains or "groan[s]" about dying in prison, even though he's so young.
  • He chats about the "better days" they had before they were thrown in prison, and pretends to be hopeful to keep the speaker happy.
  • The speaker knows that his brother is going to die, and is totally miserable about it.

Lines 202-208

  • The younger brother starts breathing more and more slowly and softly.
  • The speaker strains to hear his brother's breath, but can't hear anything. He calls out to his brother, afraid that he's died.
  • Even though there's nothing he can do, he can't suppress his "dread."

Lines 209-218

  • The speaker thinks he hears a sound from his brother, and in a sudden burst of almost super-human strength, he bursts his chain and rushes over to his brother.
  • But he doesn't find his brother – he realizes that he's the only living thing in the "black spot" of the dungeon.
  • His youngest brother, his last living family member and his dearest brother, has died.
  • He compares his brother to a "link" between himself and his family, which has now broken – ironic, considering that they have been chained up in a dungeon together, and that he breaks the links of his literal chains just as his brother dies.

Lines 219-226

  • One of the speaker's brothers is dead in his shallow grave and one of them is now dead on the floor of the dungeon.
  • He takes his dead brother's hand, and feels that his own hands are just as cold.
  • He hardly has the strength to move, but he's not about to die or anything.
  • The speaker is almost "frantic" with the thought that he's not about to die, since everyone he loves is dead.

Lines 227-230

  • The speaker wishes he could die, but the only thing left keeping him going is his faith, which forbids him from killing himself or even allowing himself to waste away.

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