An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum
Far far from gusty waves these children's faces.
Like rootless weeds, the hair torn around their pallor.
The tall girl with her weighed-down head. The paper-
seeming boy, with rat's eyes. The stunted, unlucky heir
Of twisted bones, reciting a father's gnarled disease,
His lesson from his desk. At back of the dim class
One unnoted, sweet and young. His eyes live in a dream,
Of squirrel's game, in the tree room, other than this.
On sour cream walls, donations. Shakespeare's head,
Cloudless at dawn, civilized dome riding all cities.
Belled, flowery, Tyrolese valley. Open-handed map
Awarding the world its world. And yet, for these
Children, these windows, not this world, are world,
Where all their future's painted with a fog,
A narrow street sealed in with a lead sky,
Far far from rivers, capes, and stars of words.
Surely, Shakespeare is wicked, and the map a bad example
With ships and sun and love tempting them to steal--
For lives that slyly turn in their cramped holes
From fog to endless night? On their slag heap, these children
Wear skins peeped through by bones and spectacles of steel
With mended glass, like bottle bits on stones.
All of their time and space are foggy slum.
So blot their maps with slums as big as doom.
Unless, governor, teacher, inspector, visitor,
This map becomes their window and these windows
That shut upon their lives like catacombs,
Break O break open 'till they break the town
And show the children green fields and make their world
Run azure on gold sands, and let their tongues
Run naked into books, the white and green leaves open
History is theirs whose language is the sun.
Stephen Spender's Other Poems
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.
Comments about this poem (An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum by Stephen Spender )
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616)
William Butler Yeats
(13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
(12 May 1828 – 9 April 1882)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
- No Man Is An Island, John Donne
- Fire and Ice, Robert Frost
- Nothing Gold Can Stay, Robert Frost
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- A Child's Christmas in Wales, Dylan Thomas
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- A Visit from St. Nicholas, Clement Clarke Moore
- Daffodils, William Wordsworth
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
Poem of the Day
- Our city's curfew, MOHAMMAD SKATI
- No regrets, george albot
- CENTER YOURSELF, Christina Sunrise
- My balls, Nassy Fesharaki
- Transported in Place, Lawrence Beck
- GROUND YOURSELF, Christina Sunrise
- Fired For Facebook Defense Of Cows, Saiom Shriver
- Friend, Alfred Oyori
- Offer Peacefully, Chinweokwu Sunlight M. Ndubu ..
- Seven Eleven, Nassy Fesharaki