In Memoriam: LKY - A Lovely Light

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)

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