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Stephen Spender

(28 February 1909 – 16 July 1995 / England)

A Childhood


I am glad I met you on the edge
Of your barbarous childhood

In what purity of pleasure
You danced alone like a peasant
For the stamping joy's own sake!

How, set in their sandy sockets,
Your clear, truthful, transparent eyes
Shone out of the black frozen landscape
Of those gray-clothed schoolboys!

How your shy hand offered
The total generosity
Of original unforewarned fearful trust,
In a world grown old in iron hatred!

I am glad to set down
The first and ultimate you,
Your inescapable soul. Although
It fade like a fading smile
Or light falling from faces
Which some grimmer preoccupation replaces.

This happens everywhere at every time:
Joy lacks the cause for joy,
Love the answering love,
And truth the objectless persistent loneliness,
As they grow older,
To become later what they were
In childhood earlier,
In a world of cheating compromise.

Childhood, its own flower,
Flushes from the grasses with no reason
Except the sky of that season.
But the grown desires need objects
And taste of these corrupts the tongue
And the natural need is scattered
In satisfactions which satisfy
A debased need.

Yet all prayers are on die side of
Giving strength to naturalness,
So I pray for nothing new,
I pray only, after such knowledge,
That you may have the strength to be you.

And I shall remember
You who, being younger,
Will probably forget.

Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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