Stephen Spender quotes

76   1

Stephen Spender

Birthdate: 28. February 1909
Date of death: 16. July 1995

Sir Stephen Harold Spender was an English poet, novelist and essayist whose work concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle. He was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the United States Library of Congress in 1965. Wikipedia

„A poet can only write about what is true to his own experience, not about what he would like to be true to his experience.“

—  Stephen Spender

Foreword
The Still Centre (1939)
Context: A poet can only write about what is true to his own experience, not about what he would like to be true to his experience.
Poetry does not state truth, it states the conditions within which something felt is true. Even while he is writing about the little portion of reality which is part of his experience, the poet may be conscious of a different reality outside. His problem is to relate the small truth to the sense of a wider, perhaps theoretically known, truth outside his experience.

„All the lessons learned, unlearned“

—  Stephen Spender

"Fall of a City"
Selected Poems (1941)
Context: All the lessons learned, unlearned;
The young, who learned to read, now blind
Their eyes with an archaic film;
The peasant relapses to a stumbling tune
Following the donkey`s bray;
These only remember to forget. But somewhere some word presses
On the high door of a skull and in some corner
Of an irrefrangible eye
Some old man memory jumps to a child
— Spark from the days of energy.
And the child hoards it like a bitter toy.

„Since we are what we are, what shall we be
But what we are?“

—  Stephen Spender

"Spiritual Explorations" from Poems of Dedication (1947)
Context: Since we are what we are, what shall we be
But what we are? We are, we have
Six feet and seventy years, to see
The light, and then resign it for the grave.

„The essential is
That all the 'I's should remain separate
Propped up under flowers, and no one suffer
For his neighbour. Then horror is postponed
For everyone until it settles on him
And drags him to that incommunicable grief
Which is all mystery or nothing.“

—  Stephen Spender

"Thoughts During An Air Raid"
The Still Centre (1939)
Context: Yet supposing that a bomb should dive
Its nose right through this bed, with me upon it?
The thought is obscene. Still, there are many
To whom my death would only be a name,
One figure in a column. The essential is
That all the 'I's should remain separate
Propped up under flowers, and no one suffer
For his neighbour. Then horror is postponed
For everyone until it settles on him
And drags him to that incommunicable grief
Which is all mystery or nothing.

„I'm pressed into the inside of a mask
At the back of love, the back of air, the back of light.“

—  Stephen Spender

"The Mask"
The Still Centre (1939)
Context: The seen and seeing softly mutually strike
Their glass barrier that arrests the sight.
But the world's being hides in the volcanoes
And the foul history pressed into its core;
And to myself my being is my childhood
And passion and entrails and the roots of senses;
I'm pressed into the inside of a mask
At the back of love, the back of air, the back of light.

„I came to see that within the struggle for a juster world, there is a further struggle between the individual who cares for long-term values and those who are willing to use any and every means to gain immediate political ends — even good ends. Within even a good social cause, there is a duty to fight for the pre-eminence of individual conscience. The public is necessary, but the private must not be abolished by it; and the individual must not be swallowed up by the concept of the social man.“

—  Stephen Spender

World Within World (1951)
Context: I am for neither West nor East, but for myself considered as a self — one of the millions who inhabit the earth... If it seems absurd that an individual should set up as a judge between these vast powers, armed with their superhuman instruments of destruction I can reply that the very immensity of the means to destroy proves that judging and being judged does not lie in these forces. For supposing that they achieved their utmost and destroyed our civilization, whoever survived would judge them by a few statements. a few poems, a few témoignages [testimonies] surviving from all the ruins, a few words of those men who saw outside and beyond the means which were used and all the arguments which were marshaled in the service of those means.
Thus I could not escape from myself into some social situation of which my existence was a mere product, and my witnessing a willfully distorting instrument. I had to be myself, choose and not be chosen... But to believe that my individual freedom could gain strength from my seeking to identify myself with the "progressive" forces was different from believing that my life must be an instrument of means decided on by political leaders. I came to see that within the struggle for a juster world, there is a further struggle between the individual who cares for long-term values and those who are willing to use any and every means to gain immediate political ends — even good ends. Within even a good social cause, there is a duty to fight for the pre-eminence of individual conscience. The public is necessary, but the private must not be abolished by it; and the individual must not be swallowed up by the concept of the social man.

„The poetic method sees the centre of consciousness as the point where all that is significant in the surrounding world becomes aware and transformed“

—  Stephen Spender

Source: The Struggle of the Modern (1963), Ch. 5
Context: The prose method might be described as that where the writer provides a complete description of all those material factors in the environment which condition his characters. The poetic method sees the centre of consciousness as the point where all that is significant in the surrounding world becomes aware and transformed; the prose method requires a description of that world in order to explain the characteristics of the people in it. The hero of the poetic method is Rimbaud; of the prose method, Balzac.

„Under the olive trees, from the ground
Grows this flower, which is a wound.“

—  Stephen Spender

"The Coward"
The Still Centre (1939)
Context: Under the olive trees, from the ground
Grows this flower, which is a wound.
It is easier to ignore
Than the heroes' sunset fire
Of death plunged in their willed desire
Raging with flags on the world's shore.

„Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.“

—  Stephen Spender

"I Think of Those Who Were Truly Great"
Poems (1933)
Context: What is precious is never to forget
The delight of the blood drawn from ancient springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth;
Never to deny its pleasure in the simple morning light,
Nor its grave evening demand for love;
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.

Help us translate English quotes

Discover interesting quotes and translate them.

Start translating

„Ah, like a comet through flame she moves entranced
Wrapt in her music no bird song, no, nor bough
Breaking with honey buds, shall ever equal.“

—  Stephen Spender

"The Express" (l. 25–27) in Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry (1988) edited by Richard Ellmann and Robert O’Clair

„The spirit drinking timelessness;
Touch, love, all senses“

—  Stephen Spender

"Not Palaces"(l. 12–16). . .
Context: Eye, gazelle, delicate wanderer,
Drinker of horizon’s fluid line;
Ear that suspends on a chord
The spirit drinking timelessness;
Touch, love, all senses...

„I am for neither West nor East, but for myself considered as a self — one of the millions who inhabit the earth…“

—  Stephen Spender

World Within World (1951)
Context: I am for neither West nor East, but for myself considered as a self — one of the millions who inhabit the earth... If it seems absurd that an individual should set up as a judge between these vast powers, armed with their superhuman instruments of destruction I can reply that the very immensity of the means to destroy proves that judging and being judged does not lie in these forces. For supposing that they achieved their utmost and destroyed our civilization, whoever survived would judge them by a few statements. a few poems, a few témoignages [testimonies] surviving from all the ruins, a few words of those men who saw outside and beyond the means which were used and all the arguments which were marshaled in the service of those means.
Thus I could not escape from myself into some social situation of which my existence was a mere product, and my witnessing a willfully distorting instrument. I had to be myself, choose and not be chosen... But to believe that my individual freedom could gain strength from my seeking to identify myself with the "progressive" forces was different from believing that my life must be an instrument of means decided on by political leaders. I came to see that within the struggle for a juster world, there is a further struggle between the individual who cares for long-term values and those who are willing to use any and every means to gain immediate political ends — even good ends. Within even a good social cause, there is a duty to fight for the pre-eminence of individual conscience. The public is necessary, but the private must not be abolished by it; and the individual must not be swallowed up by the concept of the social man.

„Opening, my eyes say 'Let there be light',
Closing, they shut me in a coffin.“

—  Stephen Spender

"The Human Situation"
The Still Centre (1939)
Context: And if this I were destroyed,
The image shattered,
My perceived, rent world would fly
In an explosion of final judgement
To the ends of the sky,
The colour in the iris of the eye.
Opening, my eyes say 'Let there be light',
Closing, they shut me in a coffin.

„To break out of the chaos of my darkness
Into a lucid day is all my will.“

—  Stephen Spender

"Darkness And Light"
The Still Centre (1939)
Context: To break out of the chaos of my darkness
Into a lucid day is all my will.
My words like eyes in night, stare to reach
A centre for their light: and my acts thrown
To distant places by impatient violence
Yet lock together to mould a path of stone
Out of my darkness into a lucid day.

„Both Hopkins and Lawrence were religious not just in the ritualistic sense but in the sense of being obsessed with the word — the word made life and truth — with the need to invent a language as direct as religious utterance.“

—  Stephen Spender

Pt. 2, Ch. 3
The Struggle of the Modern (1963)
Context: Both Hopkins and Lawrence were religious not just in the ritualistic sense but in the sense of being obsessed with the word — the word made life and truth — with the need to invent a language as direct as religious utterance. Both were poets, but outside the literary fashions of their time. Both felt that among the poets of their time was an absorption in literary manners, fashions and techniques which separated the line of the writing from that of religious truth. Both felt that the modern situation imposed on them the necessity to express truth by means of a different kind of poetic writing from that used in past or present. Both found themselves driven into writing in a way which their contemporaries did not understand or respond to yet was inevitable to each in his pursuit of truth. Here of course there is a difference between Hopkins and Lawrence, because Hopkins in his art was perhaps over-worried, over-conscientious, whereas Lawrence was an instinctive poet who, in his concern for truth, understood little of the problems of poetic form, although he held strong views about them.

„Some old man memory jumps to a child
— Spark from the days of energy.
And the child hoards it like a bitter toy.“

—  Stephen Spender

"Fall of a City"
Selected Poems (1941)
Context: All the lessons learned, unlearned;
The young, who learned to read, now blind
Their eyes with an archaic film;
The peasant relapses to a stumbling tune
Following the donkey`s bray;
These only remember to forget. But somewhere some word presses
On the high door of a skull and in some corner
Of an irrefrangible eye
Some old man memory jumps to a child
— Spark from the days of energy.
And the child hoards it like a bitter toy.

„The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire's centre.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.“

—  Stephen Spender

"I Think of Those Who Were Truly Great"
Poems (1933)
Context: Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields,
See how these names are fêted in the waving grass
And by the streamers of the white cloud
And whispers of the wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire's centre.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

Similar authors

Richard Aldington photo
Richard Aldington5
English writer and poet
Rudyard Kipling photo
Rudyard Kipling199
English short-story writer, poet, and novelist
Paul Valéry photo
Paul Valéry83
French poet, essayist, and philosopher
Rainer Maria Rilke photo
Rainer Maria Rilke175
Austrian poet and writer
Khalil Gibran photo
Khalil Gibran107
Lebanese artist, poet, and writer
George Santayana photo
George Santayana110
20th-century Spanish-American philosopher associated with P…
Aleister Crowley photo
Aleister Crowley142
poet, mountaineer, occultist
G. K. Chesterton photo
G. K. Chesterton222
English mystery novelist and Christian apologist
Samuel Beckett photo
Samuel Beckett119
Irish novelist, playwright, and poet
James Joyce photo
James Joyce191
Irish novelist and poet
Today anniversaries
Frantz Fanon photo
Frantz Fanon45
Martiniquais writer, psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutiona… 1925 - 1961
Peter Handke photo
Peter Handke9
Austrian writer, playwright and film director 1942
Byron Katie photo
Byron Katie73
American spiritual writer 1942
Dion Fortune photo
Dion Fortune10
British occultist and author 1890 - 1946
Another 60 today anniversaries
Similar authors
Richard Aldington photo
Richard Aldington5
English writer and poet
Rudyard Kipling photo
Rudyard Kipling199
English short-story writer, poet, and novelist
Paul Valéry photo
Paul Valéry83
French poet, essayist, and philosopher
Rainer Maria Rilke photo
Rainer Maria Rilke175
Austrian poet and writer
Khalil Gibran photo
Khalil Gibran107
Lebanese artist, poet, and writer