An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum—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 of 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.


• ‘like rootless weeds’ — the children have been compared to weeds or the unwanted section of the 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 lives have been compared to the underground burial chambers


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


• ‘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


• ‘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.


Break O break open till they break the town

‘ Far, far’


Poetic Devices


• ‘bower quiet’-refers to a quiet shady part in the garden

• ‘sweet dreams’-happy dreams

• ‘wreathing a flowery band’-connecting to nature

• `pall’-a covering like a shroud

• ‘endless fountain of immortal drink’- refers to the deeds of great men and women that have made them a source of inspiration for people of all times

• The list of beautiful things is metaphors and symbols of nature.


• `noble natures’

• ‘cooling covert’

• ‘band to bind’


• ‘flowery bands’

• ‘shady boon’

• ‘clear rills’

• ‘daffodils in green world’

• ‘grandeur of dooms’

• ‘cooling covert’

• ‘endless fountain of eternal drink’


• ‘simple sheep’ — refers to mankind as Christ is considered the shepherd who leads human souls out of the dark world of sins and temptations

Transferred epithet:

• ‘gloomy days’ • ‘unhealthy and o’er darkened ways’


• ‘mighty dead’


Poetic Devices

• The imagery used in the poem is suggestive of both death and youth. The image of `young trees and merry children’ are a contrast to the mother.

• The poetic devices used are simile, metaphor, repetition and personification:

Simile — face ashen like a corpse, as a late winter’s moon.

Personification — trees sprinting

Repetition — smile and smile and smile

Metaphor — children spilling

Poetic Devices


1. Her face ashen like that of a corpse: poet sees mother dozing off with her mouth open, almost like a corpse — it seems to have lost all vitality — the grey colour of ash is usually associated with a dead body – triggers the pain of losing her mother who is close to death.

2. Wan, pale as a lath winter moon: reinforces the idea that the mother’s face was pale and lifeless like that of a fading winter moon. Winter is symbolic of the last cycle of the season — hence waning moon-mother’s frail health misted by age is indicative of imminent death.Poet resorts to escapism to avoid the harsh realities that stare her in the face-dispels the horrifying thoughts by diverting her attention to the images of the young trees and merry children.


Merry children spilling out of their homes: youthful and exuberant, spring of life-contrast to the morbid atmosphere inside the car – the old mother weak, frail, inactive.


Young trees sprinting – the sprinting movement of the trees rushing past signify youth, life or passage of time. The mother – travelling in the car-lifeless, helpless decayed by age. Her instinctive awareness leads to the familiar ache-painful realization of helplessness (cannot share her fears with her mother-fear stemmed out of unknown-didn’t want to worry her)——- fear of separation-that childhood fear-inherent in all children-of losing one’s loved ones-fear of death.


Smile and smile and smile: emphasis on the fact that she made a desperate effort to cover up her guilt, anxiety and agonizing thought of her mother’s impending death by putting up a smile to bid her a cheerful adieu.


The poem “Keeping Quiet” by Pablo Neruda is a unique blend of introspection retrospection, universal fraternity and abhorrence to war.

The poetic devices used in the poem are the following:

1. Alliteration – “we will”, “we would”, “once on”, “we would”, “his hurt hands”

2. Antithesis – “count to twelve and we will all keep still”

3. Repetition – “without rush, without engines”

4. Imagery – “Cold Sea”

However,there will be more figures of speech.I will be glad if you add up some more.

Thanks and regards


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