Stephen Spender quotes

  • One type of concentration is immediate and complete, as it was with Mozart. The other is plodding and only completed in stages, as with Beethoven. Thus genius works in different ways to achieve its ends.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Genius #Way #Different

  • Although Poets are vain and ambitious, their vanity and ambition are of the purest kind attainable in this world. They are ambitious to be accepted for what they altimately are as revealed in their poetry.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Ambition #Vanity #Ambitious

  • Great poetry is always written by somebody straining to go beyond what he can do.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Poetry #Great Poetry #Poetry Is

  • The greatest poets are those with memories so great that they extend beyond their strongest experiences to their minutest observations of people and things far outside their own self-centeredness.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Memories #Creativity #Self

  • History is the ship carrying living memories to the future.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Memories #History #Ships

  • I think continually of those who were truly great.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Thinking

  • The greatest of all human delusions is that there is a tangible goal, and not just direction towards an ideal aim. The idea that a goal can be attained perpetually frustrates human beings, who are disappointed at never getting there, never being able to stop.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Ideas #Goal #Able

  • Never being, but always at the edge of Being.
    -- Stephen Spender

  • Poetry cannot take sides except with life.
    -- Stephen Spender

  • My uncle was famous for his balanced point of view. At the time of which I am writing (when he was nearly seventy) it had become so balanced, that the act of balancing seemed rather automatic.One had only to offer him an opinion for him to balance it with a counter- opinion of exactly the same weight, as a grocer puts a pound weight against a pound of sugar.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Writing #Balance #Opinion

  • Never allow gradually the traffic to smother with noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Spirit

  • But reading is not idleness?it is the passive, receptive side of civilization without which the active and creative world would be meaningless. It is the immortal spirit of the dead realised within the bodies of the living. It is sacramental.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Reading #Creative #World

  • My brothers and sister and I were brought up in an atmosphere which I would describe as 'Puritan decadence'. Puritanism names the behaviour which is condemned; Puritan decadence regards the name itself as indecent, and pretends that the object behind that name does not exist until it is named.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Brother #Atmosphere #Puritan

  • For I had expected always Some brightness to hold in trust, Some final innocence To save from dust
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Hope #Dust #Brightness

  • In railway halls, on pavements near the traffic, They beg, their eyes made big by empty staring And only measuring Time , like the blank clock. No, I shall weave no tracery of pen-ornament To make them birds upon my singing tree: Time merely drives these lives which do not live As tides push rotten stuff along the shore.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Eye #Bird #Tree

  • 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 .
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Song #Ambition #Thinking

  • 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.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Morning #Spring #Simple

  • Death to the killers, bringing light to life.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Light #Killers

  • 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.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Passion #Light #Volcanoes

  • Paint here no draped despairs, no saddening clouds Where the soul rests, proclaims eternity. But let the wrong cry out as raw as wounds This Time forgets and never heals, far less transcends.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Clouds #Soul #Despair

  • Of course, the entire effort is to put myself Outside the ordinary range Of what are called statistics. A hundred are killed In the outer suburbs. Well, well, I carry on.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Effort #Statistics #Ordinary

  • You drive the landscape like a herd of clouds Moving against your horizontal tower Of steadfast speed. All England lies beneath you like a woman With limbs ravished By one glance carrying all these eyes.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Lying #Moving #Eye

  • Deep in the winter plain, two armies Dig their machinery, to destroy each other. Men freeze and hunger. No one is given leave On either side, except the dead, and wounded.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Army #Winter #Men

  • The iron arc of the avoiding journey Curves back upon my weakness at the end; Whether the faint light spark against my face Or in the dark my sight hide from my sight, Centre and circumference are both my weakness.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Dark #Journey #Light

  • My single pair of eyes Contain the universe they see; Their mirrored multiplicity Is packed into a hollow body Where I reflect the many, in my one.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Eye #Pairs #Body

  • All the posters on the walls All the leaflets in the streets Are mutilated, destroyed or run in rain, Their words blotted out with tears, Skins peeling from their bodies In the victorious hurricane.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Running #Wall #Rain

  • 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.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Children #Memories #Eye

  • 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.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Heart #Air #Wind

  • No one Shall hunger: Man shall spend equally. Our goal which we compel: Man shall be man.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Men #Goal #Hunger

  • Eye , gazelle, delicate wanderer, Drinker of horizon's fluid line; Ear that suspends on a chord The spirit drinking timelessness; Touch, love, all senses...
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Drinking #Eye #Horizon

  • 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 .
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Years #Feet #Light

  • The only true hope for civilization-the conviction of the individual that his inner life can affect outward events and that, whether or not he does so he is responsible for them.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Civilization #Doe #Events

  • When I saw photographs of children murdered by the Fascist, I felt furious pity. When the supporters of Franco talked of Red atrocities, I merely felt indignant that people should tell such lies. In the first case I saw corpses, in the second only words. . . I gradually acquired a certain horror of the way in which my own mind worked. It was clear to me that unless I cared about every murdered child impartially, I did not really care about children being murdered at all.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Children #Lying #People

  • Religion stands, the Church blocking the sun.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Block #Religion #Church

  • Memory exercised in a particular way is a natural gift of poetic genius. The poet above all else, is a person who never forgets certain sense impressions which he has experienced and which he can relive again as though with all their original freshness.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Memories #Poetry #Genius

  • There is a certain justice in criticism. The critic is like a midwife — a tyrannical midwife.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Justice #Criticism #Certain

  • If you get to a certain age, all people want to know about you is people you knew. ...An American student once said to me, you know, isn't it extraordinary that I am alive and you're not dead.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #People #Age #Alive

  • If Rilke cut himself shaving, he would bleed poetry.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Cutting #Poetry #Shaving

  • So i learned both to accept myself and to aim beyond myself
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Accepting #Aim

  • I think of those who were truly great. The names of those who in their lives fought for life, Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Life #Heart #Thinking

  • Paul Valery speaks of the 'une ligne donnee' of a poem. One line is given to the poet by God or by nature, the rest he has to discover for himself.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Lines #One Line #Speak

  • I think continually of those who were truly great...Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun, and left the vivid air signed with their honor.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Thinking #Air #Honor

  • I'm struggling at the end to get out of the valley of hectoring youth, journalistic middle age, imposture, moneymaking, public relations, bad writing, mental confusion.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Struggle #Writing #Confusion

  • Bright clasp of her whole hand around my finger My daughter as we walk together now. All my life I'll feel a ring invisibly Circle this bone with shining When she is grown.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Daughter #Father #Hands

  • When you read and understand a poem, comprehending its rich and formal meanings, then you master chaos a little.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Littles #Chaos #Rich

  • All one can do is to achieve nakedness, to be what one is with all one's faculties and perceptions, strengthened by all the skill which one can acquire. And then to stand before the judgement of time.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Skills #Achievement #Judgement

  • The ultimate aim of politics is not politics, but the activities which can be practised within the political framework of the State. Therefore an effective statement of these activities e.g. science , art , religion is in itself a declaration of ultimate aims around which the political means will crystallise ... a society with no values outside of politics is a machine carrying its human cargo, with no purpose in its institutions reflecting their care, eternal aspirations, loneliness, need for love .
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Art #Loneliness #Mean

  • What we call the freedom of the individual is not just the luxury of one intellectual to write what he likes to write but his being a voice which can speak for those who are silent.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Writing #Voice #Luxury

  • Sometimes when I am writing, I am aware of a rhythm, a dance, a fury, which is as yet empty of words.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Writing #Sometimes #Empty

  • All that you can imagine you already know.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Imagination #Imagine

  • There is a certain justice in criticism.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Justice #Criticism #Certain

  • When a child, my dreams rode on your wishes, I was your son, high on your horse, My mind a top whipped by the lashes Of your rhetoric, windy of course.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Dream #Horse #Children

  • History has tongues Has angels has guns has saved has praised Today proclaims Achievements of her exiles long returned Now no more rootless, for whom her printed page Glazes their bruised waste years in one Balancing present sky.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Angel #Gun #Years

  • Whatever happens, I shall never be alone, I shall always have a fare, an affair, or a revolution.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Revolution #Affair

  • 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.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Flower #Hero #Sunset

  • 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.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Eye #Night #Light

  • My words like eyes that flinch from light, refuse And shut upon obscurity; my acts Cast to their opposites by impatient violence Break up the sequent path; they fly On a circumference to avoid the centre.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Eye #Light #Opposites

  • Involved in my own entrails and a crust Turning a pitted surface towards a space, I am a world that watches through a sky And is persuaded by mirrors To regard its being as an external shell, One of a universe of stars and faces.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Stars #Sky #Space

  • What the eye delights in, no longer dictates My greed to enjoy: boys, grass, the fenced-off deer. It leaves those figures that distantly play On the horizon's rim: they sign their peace, in games.
    -- Stephen Spender

    #Eye #Boys #Games