Spender Analysis

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Guest:
I have to analyse the following poem for an exam on Thursday. My teacher says the poem is about rich vs poor kids, and the rich kid's desire to be accepted by the adventurous poor kids. I thought Stephen Spender might be making a social distinction between 'normal' society on one hand, and street kids on the other. Especially the use of words like 'rags' and 'torn' and sentences like, 'ran in the street', 'stripped by country streams'etc.

Also, I don't get the meaning of, 'the salt coarse pointing of those boys'.

Any assistance would be appreciated.

My parents kept me from children who were rough
Who threw words like stones and who torn clothes.
Their thighs showed through rags.. They ran in the street
And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams.

If feared more than tigers th.eit: musdes like iron
Their jerkirig hands and their knees tight on my arms.
I feared the salt coarse pointing of those boys
Who copied my lisp behind me on the road.

They were lithe, they sprang out behind hedges
Like dogs to bark at my world. They threw mud
While I looked the other way, pretending to smile.
I longed to forgive them, but they never smiled.
2 comments Your teacher is right, Guest.

Spender was one of the "Left Wing" poets of the 30's & 40's, and was very aware of class distinctions. Here he is writing about a middle class boy who envies the freedom of the lower class boys, although he is also afraid of them. His parents will not allow him to play with the boys because of the difference in their social class.

To understand this poem, just think about how young boys today from different social groups taunt and bully each other.

My Parents Kept Me From Children Who Were Rough,

My parents kept me from children who were rough
Who threw words like stones and who wore torn clothes.
Their thighs showed through rags. They ran in the street
And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams.

threw words like stones


They shouted at him, probably bullying him, and, just like stones, their words were hurtful.
wore torn clothes.Their thighs showed through rags.


At that time, extreme poverty was not unusual. Today, young people wear fashionable jeans which have been deliberately torn; then, people were so poor that they could not afford new clothes, and clothes were passed down the family, becoming more and more raggy until they finally fell apart.

These boys wore such torn and ragged clothes that he could actually see their thighs where the clothes were torn.
They ran in the street.

As a middle class boy, his parents probably would not allow him to play in the streets
And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams.


These boys could go wherever they wanted, without parental supervision. They could climb cliffs, and take off their clothes and swim in streams if they wanted to. He would not be allowed to do that.

I feared more than tigers their muscles like iron
Their jerking hands and their knees tight on my arms.


He was frightened of these boys, because they would fight him, and pin him to the ground, kneeling on him so he couldn't escape. Perhaps they hit him as well. (jerking hands)

I feared the salt coarse pointing of those boys Who copied my lisp behind me on the road.


He was frightened by the way they pointed at him in a rude way, and mimicked the way he spoke.

They were lithe, they sprang out behind hedges Like dogs to bark at my world.
They threw mud While I looked the other way, pretending to smile.


these were strong, agile boys, who would lie in wait for him to pass by. They hid behind hedges, and as he drew near they leapt out at him, "barking like dogs" or shouting roughly. They threw mud at him, and he could not retaliate, but had to keep walking, and pretend it was funny. Actually, it was frightening and hurtful.

I longed to forgive them, but they never smiled.


He really wanted to be friends with them, and play their rough games, but they never invited him - he was just the object of their scorn

Stephen Spender.
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Do English boys fear tigers? I doubt it.

MrP
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I'll bet you a fiver they would, if one jumped out of a hedge! Emotion: wink
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Oh, I'm sure they would. But I mean, as a rule? Strange men who invite you into their front seats, or the wrong brand of trainers, or being made to recite poetry in class, maybe; but 'tigers'?

I don't think so.

But then, Spender is a pretty ropey writer.

MrP
Proficient Speaker: Users in this role are known to maintain an excellent grasp of the English language. You can only be promoted to this role by the Englishforums team.Retired Moderator: A moderator who has retired.
Context is everything Mr. P. Maybe his Mummy & Daddy had just taken him to the circus, where he had seen the tigers which were then permitted. Having observed the terrible mess they made of their poor whip-wielding trainer, Adolph Pinker, the young lad naturally bore emotional scars the rest of his days. Emotion: crying
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Anonymous:
omg thank you soo much for those posts you have like helped me sooo much with my english homework
Abbie, thank you so much even if you didn't post it for me in the first place. God, I keep on telling myself that the best people to teach English poetry are its native speakers , not like these I have in here , sorry, I'm not impolite but I really don't enjoy poetry except in this very forum so thank you allEmotion: smile. In class and whenever I try to add any point or when I to explain the salvation for these who've never heard of it, I'm always banned!! Of course, I'm referring to the religious aspects of some English poems that I enjoy most and I found out that unless you know much about the Bible, you'd never understand certain poems.
Full Member314
Anonymous:
Thank you so much even if you didn't post it for me in the first place. God, I keep on telling myself that the best people to teach English poetry are its native speakers , not like these I have in here , sorry, I'm not impolite but I really don't enjoy poetry except in this very forum so thank you all. In class and whenever I try to add any point or when I to explain the salvation for these who've never heard of it, I'm always banned!! Of course, I'm referring to the religious aspects of some English poems that I enjoy most and I found out that unless you know much about the Bible, you'd never understand certain poems.
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