Sir Stephen Spender’s “I Think Continually Of Those Who Were Truly Great”


Here’s something for you to start (or end) your week with.  I hope it speaks to you.

It resonates with me, and celebrates some of the themes of Fortress of the Mind.

It’s a poem by Sir Stephen Spender (1909-1995) entitled I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great.  Spender was among a group of Oxford poets who flourished in the 1930s.  Among them were W.H. Auden and Louis MacNeice.



I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great


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 delight of the blood drawn from ageless 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.


Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields

See how those names are feted by the wavering 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.