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 )
- Villanelle, Peter Jay Shippy
- First comes a riddle, Ahmed Tawfik
- My Father was a Farmer: A Ballad, Robert Burns
- It's Hard to Imagine That Nothing At All.., Peter Jay Shippy
- How cruel are the parents, Robert Burns
- Things change, Ahmed Tawfik
- Lines to an Old Sweetheart, Robert Burns
- To Miss Ferrier, enclosing Elegy on Sir .., Robert Burns
- Rhyming Reply to a Note from Captain Rid.., Robert Burns
- I Murder hate, Robert Burns
Poem of the Day
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe
- Daffodils, William Wordsworth
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- Dreams, Langston Hughes
- Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas
- Home And Love, Robert William Service
- Fire and Ice, Robert Frost
- No Man Is An Island, John Donne
- The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936)
(27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
- Heather Burns