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An Elementary School Poetic Devices

 By-  Stephen Spender


  • gusty waves’ — the privileged children are compared to gusty waves — energetic and exuberant.
  • ‘future’s painted with a fog’ — refers to the future of the slum children which has been compared to the fog because it is uncertain and unclear.
  • ‘sealed in with a lead sky’ — refers to the dull and grey colour of the sky and also the depressing future of the slum children
  • ‘stars of words’ — refers to the words or literature written by writers like Shakespeare that create images which are as bright, beautiful and inspiring like stars
  • ‘from fog to endless night’ — refers to the future of the slum children which is without any ray of hope, a future that can only go from bad to worse
  • ‘wear skins peeped through by bones’ — refers to the thin emaciated bodies of the children which has been reduced to mere skin and bones
  • let their tongues /Run naked into books’ — refers to the act of allowing children to go taste/experience the variety life as depicted in the books or giving the children an experience of the beautiful bright world outside the depressing confines of the slum
  • ‘whose language is the sun’ — refers to the children who live in pleasant surroundings and thereby have happier lives

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  • ‘like rootless weeds’ — the children have been compared to weeds or the unwanted section of society.
  • ‘like bottle bits on stones’ — The spectacles frame their stony-eyed expressions/hard faces.
  • ‘windows that shut upon their lives like catacombs’ — the classroom and the homes in which the slum children live have been compared to underground burial chambers


  • ‘weighed down’ — refers to the burden of poverty and hopelessness that weighs down the slum children

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  • ‘reciting’ literal — the boy is reciting the lesson. figurative — he is more prominently reciting his father’s disease i.e. he has inherited his father’s disease of twisted bones and deformity.
  • ‘sour cream’: literal — the neglected walls have turned a dirty yellow figurative — a dismal place where all dreams turn sour (in this case the classroom)
  • ‘lead sky’ literal — sky polluted with industrial fumes figurative: A sky that does not open opportunities.


  • ‘squirrel’s game’ — something that helps the child to escape the grim reality of his surroundings `civilized dome riding all cities’ — cities that show the progress of the civilization and its marvellous architecture (also Personification — riding all cities).
  • ‘open-handed map’ — a map drawn arbitrarily by the people in power and the privileged.
  • ‘map with slums as big as doom’ — the grim reality of the lives of the slum children.
  • ‘fog’ — bleak and unclear.
  • ‘ships and sun’ — adventure and beautiful lands offering opportunities.
  • ‘slag heaps’ — industrial waste, toxic filth and squalor.
  • ‘windows’ — windows of the slum classroom do not open out to opportunities and the wide world. They show only fog covered slums where they are confined.
  • ‘green fields, gold sand’ — colour, happiness, nature and golden opportunities.
  • ‘white and green leaves’ — learning from pages of books and nature.
  • ‘run azure’ — experience the rich colours of the blue waves.
  • ‘sun’ — symbol of enlightenment /clarity/ equality/purity.

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 Break O break open till they break the town

‘ Far, far’

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