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The Truly Great by Stephen Spender
Posted by: Julez (218.208.222.---)
Date: April 22, 2005 11:56PM

Hi i need to do an analysis on the poem The Truly Great by Stephen Spender. I know it was written in 1933 and has something to do with a young man that is full of idealism and admiration for heroes of the past. If you could help me analyse it line by line i will be most appreciative.
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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.

What is precious is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple 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.

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how these names are fêted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of 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 traveled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.


Re: The Truly Great by Stephen Spender
Posted by: lg (---.ca.charter.com)
Date: April 23, 2005 11:13AM

Julez, if you take the poem stanza by stanza and put the meaning of each into your own words you will come to a better understanding of the poem.

The first stanza's meaning is held in these key lines:

Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit clothed from head to foot in song.


The second stanza seems to be about remembering the spirit.

What is precious is never to forget


In the third stanza, the author honors the "truly great" in these lines:

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 traveled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.


If you have any specific questions, post them below.


Les


Re: The Truly Great by Stephen Spender
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-04rh16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: April 23, 2005 05:54PM

analyse it line by line ...

I think continually of those who were truly great.

(Looks like it's gonna be iambic pentameter.)

Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition

(No, wait - is that line tetrameter?)

Was that their lips, still touched with fire,

(Iambic tetrameter?)

Should tell of the Spirit clothed from head to foot in song.

(Oh, dear. Are there six beats in that one?)

And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.

(Well, heck, there appears to be no consistent rhythm at all here. Nor any rhymes that I can see. Hey, you don't suppose this could really be prose instead of poetry, do you?)


Re: The Truly Great by Stephen Spender
Posted by: johns (---.proxycache.rima-tde.net)
Date: May 23, 2005 07:25AM

Its a hard one, and im not sure what the main theme is. I thought it was originally refering to soldiers fighting for a cause, or any freedom fighters. There is alot about Nature , which is intertwined with religion. I would like someone to tell me the true meaning of this poem and what the poet is refering to. Cheers,.


Re: The Truly Great by Stephen Spender
Posted by: melancolia (213.42.2.---)
Date: May 23, 2005 09:17AM

Basically, the poet defines the characteristics found in men of true greatness. He is referring to anyone who selflessly fights for what he believes in, and is willing to sacrifice for it too. He's talking about people whose souls are filled with passion and love and belief. Even before they're born, they already know their sole purpose in life or what they have to do.
These "truly great" people are different from just great people because they embrace vitality, they have strength of spirit. They don't follow; they lead. These people... their names will live on, they will be remembered. They have been immortalised in their actions.
I think this poem is a wonderful one which makes you reflect, and it also teaches you about life and how to live it.


Re: The Truly Great by Stephen Spender
Posted by: Linda (---.l4.c2.dsl.pol.co.uk)
Date: May 23, 2005 01:43PM

Try reading Ecclesiasticus 44 "Let us now praise famous men" as a comparison.




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