Stephen Spender

S
Stephen Spender
Auden's Funeral
I
One among friends who stood above your grave
I cast a clod of earth from those heaped there
Down on the great brass-handled coffin lid.
It rattled on the oak like a door knocker
And at that sound I saw your face beneath
Wedged in an oblong shadow under ground.
Flesh creased, eyes shut, jaw jutting
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Rejoice in the Abyss
The great pulsation passed. Glass lay around me
Resurrected from the end. I walked
Along streets of slate-jabbering houses,

Against an acrid cloud of dust, I saw
The houses kneel, revealed each in its abject
Prayer, my prayer as well: 'Oh God,
Spare me the lot that is my neighbour's.'

Then, in the upper sky, indifferent to our
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An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum
Far far from gusty waves these children's faces.
Like rootless weeds, the hair torn round 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 tree room, other than this.
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In 1929
I
A whim of Time, the general arbiter,
Proclaims the love, instead of death, of friends.
Under the domed sky and athletic sun
Three stand naked: the new, bronzed German
The communist clerk, and myself, being English.

Yet to unwind the travelled sphere twelve years
Then two take arms, spring to a soldier's posture:
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Song
Stranger, you who hide my love
In the curved cheek of a smile
And sleep with her upon a tongue
Of soft lies that beguile,
Your paradisal ecstasy
Is justified is justified
By hunger of the beasts beneath
The overhanging cloud
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The Uncreating Chaos
(Double Portrait in a Mirror) I
To the meeting despair of eyes in the street, offer
Your eyes on plates and your liver on skewers of pity.
When the Jericho sky is heaped with clouds which the sun
Trumpets above, respond to Apocalypse
With a headache. In spirit follow
The young men to the war, up Everest. Be shot.
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What I Expected
What I expected, was
Thunder, fighting,
Long struggles with men
And climbing.
After continual straining
I should grow strong;
Then the rocks would shake
And I rest long.
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My Parents
My parents kept me from children who were rough
Who threw words like stones and wore torn clothes
Their thighs showed through rags they ran in the street
And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams.

I feared more than tigers their muscles like iron
Their jerking hands and their knees tight on my arms
Ifeared the salt coarse pointing of those boys
Who copied my lisp behind me on the road.
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The Truly Great
I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul’s history
Through corridors of light, where the hours are suns,
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit, clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.
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