Critical Analysis of The Express

Critical Analysis of The Express by Stephen Spender

Critical Analysis of The Express: Stephen Spender’s one of the members of the ‘Mac-Spaun-Day’ group, was also associated with the literary school called ‘Pylon Poets’. He was a leading figure of the ‘Auden Circle’. He was a famous poet of the 1930s who employed images borrowed from machinery, science and industry with a backdrop of natural landscapes. The readers can also find fine blending of the names of mechanical objects and his poetry.

Critical Analysis of The Express

As a Pylon poet, Stephen Spender has dexterously used modern images in combination with natural scenery his poem Critical Analysis of The Express presents a contrast between machine age and romantic and natural landscapes of the countryside. Spender’s poetry is a meeting place of both nature and science. In the poem “The Express’, Stephen Spender has handled the subject-matter in a metaphysical vein by using far-fetched imagery. Critical Analysis of The Express presents co-existence of both Nature and machine in modern age. The poem deals with the socio-economic issues of the contemporary world.

Stephen Spender has produced some remarkable collections of poetry such as “Twenty Poems” published in 1930, “The Still Centre” {1939}, “Vienna” {1934}, “Poems of Dedication” {1946}, and famous autobiography, “World within World”. “


The Express’ by Stephen Spender deals with man and modern world. The very presence of the Express train in the countryside adds charm and wonder to the poem. The poem also throws light on Spender’s keen interest in modern industrial world which is equipped with machines. Spender deemed modern inventions as a means of change and reform in the diseased social order. “The Express” vividly presents the music of rhythmic and graceful motion of ‘The Express’ in romantic manner. Stephen Spender has conveyed glory and charm of the movement of a train into this fine lyric poem.

In the opening lines of the poem, Stephen Spender has dexterously depicted the Express train which heralds it departure from a station with the ‘powerful plain manifesto’ of pistons with their graceful movement at the initial start. It makes an initial announcement at its start. The words also imply the politician in the poet who thinks of the manifestoes and statements that precedes the draft of new political programme. Stephen Spender has made fine use of figures of speech such as personification, alliteration, and simile in the the opening stanza of the poem. There is beauty and charm in the machine, and feminine qualities are attributed to 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 restrained unconcern

She passes the houses which humbly crowd outside.”

The train here stands for the modern industrial civilization. The glorious movement of the train to its destination is vividly captured by the poet. Though the object is familiar he has treated it in an artistic manner. It becomes an object of beauty and magnitude.

Stephen spender has compared the Express train to a queen with her pride, dignity, and beauty who deliberately pays no heed to humble dwellings, the enormous industrial buildings, and the churchyard with tits sacred associations. She treats everyone on equal terms making no discrimination. She is indifferent to the surroundings and engrossed in her own rule and activity. Her deliberate recklessness implies stateliness of a queen.

“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.”

The Express train moves away from the humble dwellings, industrial buildings and the churchyard to the open natural landscape of the countryside announcing her arrival by acquiring her momentum. It gets the radiant swiftness and grace as its speeds up as if it is inspired by some goal of a resolute person. It gradually puts on a new garb of mystery as it enters the natural landscape of the countryside.

Speeding along the open countryside, the Express train becomes an object of mystery. Stephen Spender has made fine use of figures of speech such as simile and personification in the lines. There is beauty in the machine; and feminine qualities are attributed to it. As a woman, she becomes an object of awe and wonder: a mystery unknown to people. The Express train perfectly maintains control just like woman. The train marvelously moves like a ship at sea. The poet has employed startling features of the landscape.

The poet has given realistic description of the whistling of the Express train. At the beginning, it is soft and gets louder when it is heard from near distance. It is compared to singing a song in a soft voice and then it becomes clearer, louder and wilder by the spirit of speed just as the jazz singer gets involved in singing in gusto and crazy intensity.

“It is now she begins to sing – at first quite low

Then loud, and at last with jazzy madness –

The song of her whistle screaming at curves,

Of deafening tunnels, brakes, innumerable bolts,

And always light, aerial underneath,”

The poet has employed the onomatopoeic words such as ‘deafening’ and ‘screaming’ in order to attain musical effect.

The muffled whistle of the Express train coming from the dark tunnels can be heard be heard. It whistles as it takes turn on the curves of the rail.

“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.”

As the Express train moves, its movement acquires joyous rhythm. Despite its colonial glory and richness, and the complex mechanism of the Express, its movement on the wheels displays an airy lightness and agility. Its movement becomes rhythmic accompanied by swiftness.

“At last, further than Edinburg and Rome,

Beyond the crest of the world, she reaches night

Where only a low streamline brightness

Of phosphorus on the tossing hills in white,

Ah, like as comet through flame, she moves entranced

Wrapt in her music; no bird-song, no, nor bough,

Breaking with honey-buds, shall ever equal.”

The familiar objects appear unfamiliar and strange as the Express moves up winding march in the course of its journey. It unveils the parallels lines of the rails glistening and shining like the polished metal used in the production og guns. It is made up of pure metal. The train speeds through the metal track laid for it. The train majestically moves like a ship on the rails like the ship at sea. Stephen Spender has employed fantastic image of gliding of the Express on the metal track.

The train moves along crossing a long distance approaches night where the darkness is soften by the soft and dim light falling on the snowy and hill-tops clad in snow. On the edge of the sky, one can see the fiery smoke sent out by the train. The poet imagines the image of a never-lasting journey of the train. Here, the Express has not been described as an expressive, clamorous, and noisy modern machine which spoils the beauty, purity, and peace of the natural surroundings.

The poet again employed an image of a comet blaring through the heavens in elegance and wonder. To the poet, the music produced by the train is as rhythmical, melodious and alluring as any bird-song. It seems that the world of machines was to Spender what Nature was to William Wordsworth.

In critical Analysis of The Express the poet has visualized the coming of the train just like a comet which appears in the sky through space at night. The poet finds symphony in the rhythmic music of the train as the songs of any bird. The poet further elaborates the image and says that the swelling and exuberance of orchard buds seems to inferior to the turning round the engine which is intoxicated with its own magnitude and speed.


Stephen Spender’s poem “The Express” excels all beautiful and enchanting objects of nature in beauty and elegance. It seems that the world of machines was to Spender what Nature was to William Wordsworth. The world of machines and nature go hand in hand in the poem. The poet has not only employed images borrowed from nature but also machines.

The Express has been illustrated as a part and parcel of the modern world. It is not deemed as an alien but an important thing of modern age. The poet has glorified ‘The Express’ in a marvellous manner; and it is as beautiful and appealing as any nature-poem. It indicates the greatness of the poet. The blending of nature and science can amaze any reader.

Read it also:

Critical Analysis of The Railway Clerk

Very Indian Poem In Indian English

1 thought on “Critical Analysis of The Express”

Leave a Comment