A. E. Housman

August 27, 2006


Alfred Edward Housman
English poet and classical scholar
Poetry is imbued with a deep pessimism and an obsession with all-pervasive death with no place for the consolations of religion; explore themes of fleetingness of love and decay of youth


They say my verse is sad: no wonder. / Its narrow measure spans / Rue for eternity, and sorrows / Not mine, but man’s.
This is for all ill-treated fellows / Unborn and unbegot, / For them to read when they’re in trouble / And I am not.

-They Say My Verse Is Sad: No Wonder (in whole)

The time you won your town the race / We chaired you through the market-place; / Man and boy stood cheering by, / And home we brought you shoulder-high.
To-day, the road all runners come, / Shoulder-high we bring you home, / And set you at your threshold down, / Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away / From fields where glory does not stay / And early through the laurel grows / It withers quicker than a rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut / Cannot see the record cut, / And silence sounds no worse than cheers / After earth has stopped the ears:
Now you will not swell the rout / Of lads that wore their honours out, / Runners whom renown outran / and the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade, / The fleet foot on the sill of shade, / And hold to the low lintel up / The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled head / Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead, / And find unwithered on its curls / The garland briefer than a girl’s.

-To an Athlete Dying Young (in whole)

Speaker believes it is better to die in your prime and have your name live on forever
Victorious sports imagery is contrasted and paralleled with images of death

Therefore, since the world has still / Much good, but much less good than ill, / And while the sun and moon endure / Luck’s a chance, but throuble’s sure, / I’d face it as a wise man would, / And train for ill and not for good. / ‘Tis true, the stuff I bring for sale / Is not so brisk a brew as ale: / Out of a stem that scored the hand / I wrung it in a weary land. / But take it: if the smack is sour, / The better for the embittered hour; / It should do good to heart and head / When your soul is in my soul’s stead; / And I will friend you, if I may, / In the dark and cloudy day.

-Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff

How does the parable in the end relate to the story?
Parallel between poetry and alcohol

When I watch the living meet, / And the moving pageant file / Warm and breathing through the street / Where I lodge a little while, / If the heats of hate and lust / In the house of flesh are strong, / Let me mind the house of dust / Where my sojourn shall be long.
In the nation that is not / Nothing stands that stood before / There revenges are forgot, / And the hater hates no more; / Lovers lying two and two / Ask not whom they sleep beside, / And the bridegroom all night through / Never turns him to the bride.

-When I Watch the Living Meet (in whole)


One Response to “A. E. Housman”

  1. Clora Gettig Says:

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