top of page
  • Writer's pictureSnappy notes


Updated: Jul 30, 2020


Sir Stephen Harold Spender was born on 28th February, 1909, in London was an English poet, novelist, critic and essayist. His works concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle. Spender’s sexuality has been the subject of debate. He was a member of the generation of British poets who came to prominence in the 1930s, referred as Oxford Poets which included W.H.Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Cecil Day-Lewis, and Louis MacNeice. Spender also had profound intellectual workings with the world of art, including Picasso. He was discovered by T.S.Eliot, an editor at Faber and Faber, in 1933. His early poetry, notably Poems (1933) was often inspired by social protest. Sometimes Spender was described as "Shelleyan" because of the passion of his call for sweeping change and of his lyrical way with words. Because of that lyricism, coupled with his good looks, he was also once labeled "the Rupert Brooke of the Depression," in a barbed reference to the British war poet who died during World War I.

Spender's first prose book was a 1934 volume of essays, The Destructive Element, commenting on the poetry of T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, W. B. Yeats and others. His first collection of short stories, The Burning Cactus, came out in 1936. The following year saw the publication of his Forward from Liberalism, an exposition of his political thinking, which led to an invitation to join the British Communist Party. Spender, like many young intellectuals of the era, was a member of the communist party. In 1936, he became a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Spender continued to write poetry throughout his life, but it came to consume less of his literary output in later years than it did in the 1930s and 1940s. Spender held several honorary degrees and in 1965, became the first non-American to serve as Consultant in Poetry in English to the Library of Congress.

In the 1980s, Spender’s writings like The Journal of Stephen Spender, 1939-1983, Collected Poems, 1928-1985, and Letter to Christopher: Stephen Spender’s Letter to Christopher Isherwood, 1929-1939, in particular placed a special emphasis on autobiographical material. On 16th July 1995, Spender died of a heart attack in Westminster, London aged 86. He was buried in the graveyard of St Mary on Paddington Green Church, in London. Spender was awarded the Golden PEN Award in 1995.


Stephen Harold Spender was born into a family that was comfortable but actually was not, according to his autobiography, particularly happy circumstances. His mother died when he was 12 and his father not many years later; Stephen and his three siblings were then under the care of their maternal grandmother, Hilda Schuster. He attended schools in Norfolk and London and went on to University College at Oxford. There he met Mr. MacNeice, Auden, Isaiah Berlin and Christopher Isherwood, who became his friends and literary colleagues. He left Oxford in 1931 to devote himself entirely to poetry writing, with the aid of a small independent income. He went frequently to Germany, where he spent time with Isherwood, whose experiences of that era led eventually to his Berlin stories and the hit play "I Am a Camera."

In 1933, Spender fell in love with Tony Hyndman who was called “Jimmy Younger” in his memoir World Within World, and they lived together from 1935 to 1936. In 1934, Spender had an affair with Muriel Gardiner which shifted his focus to heterosexuality but his relationship with Hyndman complicated this relationship. In a letter to Christopher Isherwood in September 1934, he wrote,

“I find boys much more attractive, in fact I am rather more than usually susceptible, but actually I find the actual sexual act with women more satisfactory, more terrible, more disgusting, and , in fact, more everything”

In December 1936, shortly after the end of his relationship with Hyndman, Spender fell in love with and married Inez Pearn. The marriage broke down in 1939. In 1941, Spender married Natasha Litvin, a concert pianist. This marriage seemed to have marked the end of his romantic relationship with men but not the end of all homosexual activity, as his unexpurgated diaries have revealed. This marriage lasted until his death.


The Trance poem has been taken from Collected Poems, 1928-1953. Humans have a general desire to belong and to love, which is usually satisfied within an intimate relationship. Aristotle suggested that relationships were based on three different ideas: utility, pleasure and virtue. People are attracted to relationships that provide utility because of the assistance and sense of belonging that they provide. In relationships based on pleasure, people are attracted to the feelings of pleasantness. Relationship based on utility and pleasure were said to be short-lived if the benefits provided by one of the partners was not reciprocated. Relationship based on virtue is built on an attraction to the other’s virtuous character. Feelings between two people are expressed through physical intimacy where there is connection between physical, mental and emotional aspects.


Sometimes, apart in sleep, by chance,

You fall out of my arms, alone,

Into the chaos of your separate trance.

My eyes gaze through your forehead, through the bone,

And see where in your sleep distress has torn

Its path, which on your lips is shown

And on your hands and in your dream forlorn.

Restless, you turn to me and press

Those timid words against my ear

Which thunder at my heart like stones.

"Mercy," you plead, Then "Who can bless?"

You ask. "I am pursued by Time," you moan.

I watch that precipice of fear

You tread, naked in naked distress.

To that deep care we are committed

Beneath the wildness of our flesh

And shuddering horror of our dream,

Where unmasked agony is permitted.

Our bodies, stripped of clothes that seem,

And our souls, stripped of beauty's mesh,

Meet their true selves, their charms outwitted.

This pure trance is the oracle

That speaks no language but the heart

Our angel with our devil meets

In the atrocious dark nor do they part

But each forgives and greets,

And their mutual terrors heal

Within our married miracle.


When they both are sleeping together, she slips out of his arms accidentally. She gets into the world of confused disorder with the slow and efficient movements. His eyes keep on looking in and out of her face all the way through to see whether her sufferings are ripping out. She is unable to express her conflicting choices. It is getting out of her through lips and hands in an empty place from her miserable dream.

She moves restlessly in sleep and turns to his side. She pushes her reserved words towards him which breaks his heart. “‘Mercy’, you plead, then ‘who can bless?’ You ask. She cry that she try hard to have romantic relationship. She is very close to the occurrence of fear which set down plainly in trouble. They both are committed through something more meaningful than a temporary infatuation. It is beyond their physical desire and the trembling dream where they can unveil their pain.

They both are naked with bodies together and their souls earned with beauty vision undressed. Now their true selves revealed with their charm and beauty. This kind of emotional feeling is pure form of divination that speaks through heart. Their pure soul and wilderness meets in cruel darkness which forgives one another and reacted in mutual way. They express this mutual feeling through physical intimacy in which there is no secret between physical, mental and emotional reactions.

“True love reveals true-selves”


New York Times


482 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page