Writing the City
Writing the City ©

Copyright British Council

In April 2015, to mark the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, founder of modern Singapore, Writing the City invited Singaporeans to pen a 300-word reflection on what this towering figure had meant to them.

Mr Lee will be remembered as an intellectual, a visionary politician and a statesman who earned the respect of governments around the world. He will also be remembered as a formidable and pragmatic ruler who laid the foundations for the prosperity of Singapore today.

But we asked: what did Mr Lee mean to you personally? How did his vision for the country affect your personal or cultural sense of identity – perhaps even the way that you think of yourself as Singaporean?

This is what you told us.

A Lovely Light

“My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -

It gives a lovely light!”


You resolved to give us freedom;

Your foes you gave a fight!

With iron grit and steel in soul -

Oh what a lovely light!


A people born, an unwanted child;

Abandoned – an orphan’s plight.

You lit their candles; you gave them hope -

Two million lovely lights!


A free fair land for all,

You led with all your might.

You served the people that you led –

Oh what a lovely light!


“Never fear! We WILL survive!”

Your words set spirits alight.

A lion’s resolve to guard his cubs –

Oh what a mighty sight!


In fifty years, a little red dot;

A nation shining bright.

A lighthouse in a tumultuous sea,

Singapore, a Lovely Light!


He burned his candle at both ends,

Like it wouldn’t last the night.

But ah, my foes, and oh my friends –

He gave a lovely light!

Benedict Ang

(Author’s note: the first stanza quotes from ‘First Fig’ by Edna St Vincent Millay)

Writing the City is a community of new, emerging and established writers who share their work, give and receive feedback and get invaluable opportunities to take their writing forward. We focus on writing inspired by city life. To join us, visit writingthecity.sg