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An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum Explanation Stanza by Stanza

An Elementary School Classroom In a Slum
Detailed Explanation Stanza by Stanza

--Stephen Spender

  • Stanza 1
Far far 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, unlikely heir
Of twisted bones, reciting a after'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.

Explanation: The poet sees children sitting in the classroom of a school in a slum. He describes their sad and pathetic looks through moving words-pictures. He says that the bloodless faces of these children are far from the gusty waves of life and activity that are a mark of childhood. Their untidy hair hanging around their white pale faces looks like rootless weeds. There is a tall girl with her head weighed down.
A pale-looking boy sitting against the wall is so thin and weak that he seems no more than wallpaper. His small lustreless eyes look like those of a rat. Then there is another one who seems to have stunted growth. It seems that he has inherited twisted bones from a father whose body had become gnarled because of disease. He is sitting at his desk and reciting his lesson. At the back of the class, there is a sweet little child. He has remained unnoticed because of the dim light in the classroom. He has dreamy eyes. He is dreaming about how squirrels play their games in their tree room. The little boy to dreams of such a room for himself that would be quite different from the one where he is sitting now.
  • Stanza 2
On sour cream walls, donations Shakespear'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 the map, their 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.

Explanation: The walls of the classroom in this slum smell of sour cream. They bear the names of those who have given donations to build this classroom. On these walls, there are pictures of Shakespear's bust, of cloudless dawn, of a huge cathedral dome that is a symbol of civilization in all cities, and of the Austrian Tyrol valley with its bell-shaped flowers. There is also a big open map of the world that shown all those seas and land that the world has. But for these poor children, the world shown on the map is not their world. For them, their world is merely these windows of the classroom from where they can see all their future. From here, they can see that their future is all foggy. It is only a narrow street that is sealed in with a dull sky. It is a world that is far from the open world of reivers and caps. It is a world that is far from the stars of words shown to them by all politicians.
  • Stanza 3
Surely, Shakespeare is wicked, 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 slums.
So blot their maps with slums as big as doom.

Explanation: It will be wicked to talk of Shakespeare to these poor children. Showing them the map as an example of the world will be a bad example. The love of such a big and sunny world with all-in ships will only tempt them to steal because they have no means of their own to reach it. Like rats, they spend their lives slyly in their cramped holes and for them, life is all foggy and an endless night. There is no vitality left in their bodies. They are just like a slag heap. They have on their body a skin through which all their bones are clearly visible. They look like bits of broken bottles lying on stones. All the time of these poor children is spent in the foggy slum and they know of no other place. So it would be better to blot their maps with slums as big as doom. It is no good to show them the maps of the world when their only world is the foggy slum from life to death.
  • Stanza 4
Unless, governor, 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 to 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 their whose language is the sun.

Explanation: The poet addresses these lines to the school governor, or inspector, or one who comes here as a visitor only. He says that the maps of the world have no meaning for these poor children until they are taken out of their slum. A map of the world is useless for them until it becomes for them a real window of the world. At present, their windows are only the classroom windows from where they can see only a foggy street. Their lives are spent in these foggy streets that are a kind of catacombs. The poet calls upon the governor, the inspector, and the visitor to break these windows and let these children move out of the town where they can see green fields and where they can paly on the gold-colored sand under the blue sky. Thus when they have no worries or cares in their life, they will do well in their studies also. The white leaves of books and the green leaves of trees can paly an equally important role in their growth. The poet says that history belongs to those whose language is the sun, in other words those who are free to enjoy anything under the sun.

Summary of An Elementary School Classroom in a slum stanza wise