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An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum – Stephen Spender

Lines 1 – 2

Far far from gusty waves these children’s faces
Like rootless weeds, the hair torn round their pallor.


  • Gusty waves – Strong waves (seas)
  • Weeds – Unwanted plants
  • Pallor – Face


  1. Where does the slum exist? How do you know this? The slum exists far away from the seas and oceans and rivers where rich and prosperous people live. Prosperity is found in cities and cities generally stand on the coastal regions of the world. As the slum is away from the gusty waves of the seas, they are far away from seas too.
  2. Why is the hair of the children here compared to rootless weeds? When weeds are rootless they are dead and decayed. Similarly the slum-children have their hair without being groomed or nourished properly. Their hair tangle on their faces without any order.
  3. Why does the poet mention only the faces of the children?
    The poet, by mentioning only the faces of the children in the classroom to bring out the pains they suffer. Their existence is entirely based on pains and sufferings, poverty and want, darkness and death. As one’s pains are expressed only on his/her faces, the poet mentions only ‘faces’ in the poem.

Next – To Understand Better


  1. Hello Sir. Hope u r doing fine. Read the poem of XII Class, Elementary Classroom in a slum…..with all due regards sir….there are certain aspects i need some clarification…..found a few things contradictory…..kindly revert……as per what i went thru…the explanation of Donations on the walls of classroom is not related as per the poem. Same goes with the Governor, Inspector and Visitor…i thought that the poet is making an appeal to these people for the upliftment of the slum children…please clarify….

    • Hi,
      Spender’s masterpiece is this. The poet is playing with words, as they all do, to confuse us. Your observations have already been raised by my students. Donations can be ‘donated pictures’ or ‘pictures bought with the money given as donations.’ There is no denying that the school is run for donations. Unfortunately we do not know whom the poet is appealing to. There are fewer chances for the Governor and inspector and visitors. There are two kinds of inspectors. One the education inspector and the other is the inspector who is coming to check if every child is given a welding glass – though they are broken and scratched. Class 12 students need not get beyond the visible points. The poem is deep. Thanks for your opinion. Always welcome. Please do not mind the grammerrors!



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