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This article is taken from PN Review 131, Volume 26 Number 3, January - February 2000.

Bernard Spencer: A Poet of the Thirties John Press

London in the spring of 1946 was a drab and dreary city. The euphoria of victory, savoured twelve months earlier, had faded; food rationing was more stringent than during the war; and little had been done to repair the desolation caused by German bombers. It was at this moment that Bernard Spencer, a poet awaiting a British Council posting to Sicily, celebrated his love of a country that he had known all too briefly in 1940 and 1941:

Greece, I have so much loved you
out of all reason...

Alefkandra loved by winds,
luminous with foam and morning, Athens,
her blinded marbled heads,
her pepper-trees, the bare heels of her girls,
old songs that bubble up from where thought starts,
Greek music treading like the beat of hearts,
haunted Seferis, smiling, playing with beads.

The last stanza of the poem, 'Spring Wind', turns away from the evocation of uncomplicated, sensuous images and moves to a deeper, more solemn music. Spencer, who was in his late thirties when he wrote this poem, acknowledges that it is time 'to give account of manhood and of youth'. The clinching image in the final stanza is of Lycabettus, the bare mountain that dominates Athens, although it is, strangely enough, never mentioned in the literature of classical antiquity. Now it is crowned by the church of St George, to which on their name-days pilgrims climb, bearing blazing torches:

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