In memoriam M.A.S
There are some days the happy ocean lies
Like an unfingered harp, below the land.
Afternoon guilds all the silent wires
Into a burning music for the eyes
On mirrors flashing between fine-strung fires
The shore, heaped up with roses, horses, spires
Wanders on water tall above ribbed sand.
The motionlessness of the hot sky tires
And a sigh, like a woman's from inland,
Brushes the instrument with shadowy hand
Drawing across those wires some gull's sharp cry
Or bell, or shout, from distant, hedged-in, shires;
These, deep as anchors, the hushing wave buries.
Then from the shore, two zig-zag butterflies
Like errant dog-roses cross the bright strand
Spiralling over waves in dizzy gyres
Until the fall in wet reflected skies.
They drown. Fishermen understand
Such wings sunk in such ritual sacrifice.
Remembering legends of undersea, drowned cities.
What voyagers, oh what heroes, flamed like pyres
With helmets plumed have set forth from some island
And them the seas engulfed. Their eyes
Distorted to the cruel waves desires,
Glitter with coins through the tide scarcely scanned,
While, far above, that harp assumes their sighs.
(From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Spender)
Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE (28 February 1909 – 16 July 1995) was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work. He was appointed the seventeenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the United States Library of Congress in 1965.
Spender was born in Kensington, London, to journalist Edward Harold Spender and Violet Hilda Schuster, a painter and poet. He went first to Hall School in Hampstead and then at thirteen to Gresham's School in Holt and later Charlecote School in Worthing, but was unhappy there. On the death of his mother he was transferred to University College School (Hampstead), which he later described as "that gentlest of Schools." Spender subsequently went up to University College, Oxford where, in 1973, he was made an honorary fellow. He left Oxford without taking a degree and subsequently lived for periods of time in Germany. He said at various times throughout his life that he never passed an exam, ever. Perhaps his closest friend and the man who had the biggest influence on him was W. H. Auden. Around this time he was also friends with Christopher Isherwood (who had also lived in Weimar Germany), and fellow Macspaunday members Louis MacNeice and Cecil Day-Lewis. He was friendly with David Jones and later come to know W. B. Yeats, Allen Ginsberg, Ted Hughes, Joseph Brodsky, Isaiah Berlin, Mary McCarthy, Roy Campbell, Raymond Chandler, Dylan Thomas, Jean-Paul Sartre and T. S. Eliot, as well as members of the Bloomsbury Group, in particular Virginia Woolf.
His early poetry, notably Poems (1933) was often inspired by social protest. His convictions found further expression in Vienna (1934), a long poem in praise of the 1934 uprising of Viennese socialists, and in Trial of a Judge (1938), an anti-Fascist drama in verse. His autobiography, World within World (1951), is a re-creation of much of the political and social atmosphere of the 1930s.
- Poetry Reading