Now times are altered: if I care To buy a thing, I can; The pence are here and here's the fair, But where's the lost young man? Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists? 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 trouble's sure, I'd face it as a wise man would, And train for ill and not for good. Housman was a noted classical scholar and a poet. My man, from sky to sky's so far, We never crossed before; Such leagues apart the world's ends are, We're like to meet no more; What thoughts at heart have you and I We cannot stop to tell; But dead or living, drunk or dry, Soldier, I wish you well. Home is the sailor, home from sea: Her far-borne canvas furled The ship pours shining on the quay The plunder of the world. The candles burn their sockets, The blinds let through the day, The young man feels his pockets And wonders what's to pay. I am the mic, I am the stand, I'm everybody. I, a stranger and afraid In a world I never made.
But these moments of self-lacerating humour are brief, and the general tone of the collection is one of oppressive melancholy. The chestnut casts his flambeaux, and the flowers Stream from the hawthorn on the wind away, The doors clap to, the pane is blind with showers. Many went like this: you are going to die and your best friend will be poking your girlfriend. Between the trees in flower New friends at fairtime tread The way where Ludlow tower Stands planted on the dead. And I've probably read most, if not all, of these poems before, some of them more than once.
Today I read it cover to cover and was, once again, entirely blown away. Good-night, my lad, for nought's eternal; No league of ours, for sure. Please yourselves, say I, and they Need only look the other way. I'll read the poems again when I'm in a brighter mood and see whether the poems which aren't about death and shagging your dead mate's girlfriend make more of an impression on me. And wherefore is he wearing such a conscience-stricken air? Grow up and feel the change inside. And, I could feel the brains were born anew, Anew by light of morning, walking In the skin that grew.
White in the moon the long road lies, The moon stands blank above; White in the moon the long road lies That leads me from my love. Little is the luck I've had, And oh, 'tis comfort small To think that many another lad Has had no luck at all. Ages since the vanquished bled Round my mother's marriage-bed; There the ravens feasted far About the open house of war: When Severn down to Buildwas ran Coloured with the death of man, Couched upon her brother's grave That Saxon got me on the slave. For oh, good Lord the verse he made-- Too grim and too much in the shade: The doomstruck lad, the Severn missed, The Ludlow fair where he got pissed, The London blues, the snow-hung orchard, Young life cut short in syntax tortured, And favorite of all his themes, The Shropshire schoolboy's martial dreams. My friends are up and dressed and dying, And I will dress and die.
I mourn you, and you heed not how; Unsaid the word must stay; Last month was time enough, but now The news must keep for aye. At to-fall of the day Again its curfew tolls And burdens far away The green and sanguine shoals. But now you may stare as you like and there's nothing to scan; And brushing your elbow unguessed-at and not to be told They carry back bright to the coiner the mintage of man, The lads that will die in their glory and never be old. I to my perils Of cheat and charmer Came clad in armour By stars benign. Housman was surprised by the success of A Shropshire Lad because of the deep pessimism and obsession with death throughout, with no place for the consolations of religion.
And round we turned lamenting To homes we longed to leave, And silent hills indenting The orange band of eve. Behind the drum and fife, Past hawthornwood and hollow, Through earth and out of life The soldiers follow. Behind, the vats of judgment brewing Thundered, and thick the brimstone snowed; He to the hill of his undoing Pursued his road. Feast then thy heart, for what thy heart has had The fingers of no heir will ever hold. The world goes none the lamer For ought that I can see, Because this cursed trouble Has struck my days and me. These later poems, most of them written before 1910, exhibit a range of subject and form much greater than the talents displayed in A Shropshire Lad. A great series of poems, but linger overlong on the grave I think.
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. Star may plot in heaven with planet, Lightning rive the rock of granite, Tempest tread the oakwood under: Fear you not for flesh nor soul. Star and coronal and bell April underfoot renews, And the hope of man as well Flowers among the morning dews. Oh that was right, lad, that was brave: Yours was not an ill for mending, 'Twas best to take it to the grave. That is the land of lost content, I see it shining plain, The happy highways where I went And cannot come again. I shall not die for you, Another fellow may; Good lads are left and true Though one departs away.
The stars have not dealt me the worst they could do: My pleasures are plenty, my troubles are two. Men loved unkindness then, but lightless in the quarry I slept and saw not; tears fell down, I did not mourn; Sweat ran and blood sprang out and I was never sorry: Then it was well with me, in days ere I was born. It is certainly a work focused on youth, on love, on war and the transience of life. Here the child comes to found His unremaining mound, And the grown lad to score Two names upon the shore. Too fast to yonder strand forlorn We journey, to the sunken bourn, To flush the fading tinges eyed By other lads at eventide. And I associated them with the First World War, imagining that they were written after the war and were filled with nostalgia for a world that was gone. Now, that's a bit of a shame as I was in the mood for had a need for, in fact a bit of idylic escapism to My expectations for this poem cycle were confounded.
Oh they're taking him to prison for the colour of his hair. And you think, damn those presuppositions of mine! My mouth is dry, my shirt is wet, My blood runs all away, So now I shall not die in debt For thirteen pence a day. Housman The following is a complete collection of Housman's serious poetry, consisting of the two collections A Shropshire Lad and Last Poems that were published in his lifetime, and the two known as More Poems and Additional Poems that were published after his death. Maybe that is the point. Young is the blood that yonder Strides out the dusty mile, And breasts the hillside highway And whistles loud the while, And vaults the stile.
Others, I am not the first, Have willed more mischief than they durst: If in the breathless night I too Shiver now, 'tis nothing new. They braced their belts around them, They crossed in ships the sea, They sought and found six feet of ground, And there they died for me. Reading it straight through now which I may well have done before. 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 trouble's sure, I'd face it as a wise man would, And train for ill and not for good. Fortunately, most of it is clear enough.