The 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 essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth. Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple 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 these names are feted by the waving 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 travelled a short while toward the sun And left the vivid air signed with their honour."

from Collected Poems 1028–1953 by Stephen Spender