Stephen Spender

(28 February 1909 – 16 July 1995 / England)

An Elementary School Classroom In A Slum - Poem by Stephen Spender

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.


Comments about An Elementary School Classroom In A Slum by Stephen Spender

  • Er Dheeraj (2/18/2016 9:02:00 AM)

    One of the best example of contrast.
    The central theme revolves around the social and class inequalities that is deeply rooted in our society.It presents a high contrast between the low class to high class peoples.
    The poet presents his deep concern towards the ill and exhausted condition of the slum children and appeals to the society, inspector, visitors and rich class peoples to open all the boundaries that prevent these young leaves to grow and shine, because only those peoples create history or become famous who has the sparkle and grace in their life. (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
Read all 1 comments »



Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?



Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010



[Report Error]