The Express

After the first powerful plain manifesto
The black statement of pistons, without more fuss
But gliding like a queen, she leaves the station.
Without bowing and with restrained unconcern
She passes the houses which humbly crowd outside,
The gasworks and at last the heavy page
Of death, printed by gravestones in the cemetery.
Beyond the town there lies the open country
Where, gathering speed, she acquires mystery,
The luminous self-possession of ships on ocean.
It is now she begins to sing—at first quite low
Then loud, and at last with a jazzy madness—
The song of her whistle screaming at curves,
Of deafening tunnels, brakes, innumerable bolts.
And always light, aerial, underneath
Goes the elate metre of her wheels.
Steaming through metal landscape on her lines
She plunges new eras of wild happiness
Where speed throws up strange shapes, broad curves
And parallels clean like the steel of guns.
At last, further than Edinburgh or Rome,
Beyond the crest of the world, she reaches night
Where only a low streamline brightness
Of phosphorus on the tossing hills is white.
Ah, like a comet through flame, she moves entranced
Wrapt in her music no bird song, no, nor bough
Breaking with honey buds, shall ever equal.
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Hnnhbiie30's picture

"The Express" by Stephen Spender - A Poetic Ode to the Power of Speed and Movement

Stephen Spender's "The Express" is a captivating poem that celebrates the awe-inspiring power and beauty of a train journey. Through vivid imagery and rhythmic language, Spender takes the reader on a thrilling ride aboard the express train, capturing the essence of its speed, majesty, and vitality.

From the very beginning, Spender sets the stage with a "powerful plain manifesto," painting a picture of the train's departure from the station with understated elegance and grace. The train is personified as a regal figure, "gliding like a queen," exuding confidence and poise as it navigates its way through the urban landscape.

As the train leaves the confines of the town behind, it enters the open countryside, where it gains momentum and acquires an aura of mystery. Spender's use of metaphor compares the train to a ship on the ocean, emphasizing its self-possession and grandeur as it hurtles forward with increasing speed.

The poem crescendos with the train's "song," symbolized by the piercing whistle and the cacophony of sounds associated with its journey—tunnels, brakes, bolts—all contributing to the symphony of movement and progress. The imagery of the train's "elate metre of her wheels" underscores its relentless energy and unstoppable momentum.

As the train speeds through the "metal landscape" of railway lines, it symbolizes progress and advancement, ushering in "new eras of wild happiness" with its exhilarating pace. Spender's description of the train's trajectory evokes a sense of awe and wonder, as it traverses vast distances and transcends the boundaries of time and space.

In the poem's final lines, the train is likened to a comet streaking through the night sky, leaving behind a trail of light and brilliance. This image encapsulates the train's transformative power, its ability to captivate and inspire as it races onward into the unknown.

Overall, "The Express" is a masterful portrayal of the beauty and dynamism of modern transportation, celebrating the timeless allure of speed and movement. Spender's evocative language and keen observation make this poem a thrilling exploration of the human spirit's quest for progress and adventure.

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