Archive for the 'A Shropshire Lad' Category

forty-eight: A.E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad

Well, it’s the last day of the year, and I’ve read 51 out of my 52 poets, but thanks to the festive season have a bit of catching up to do. So I’ll keep it short and sweet.

Housman‘s most famous work seemed like a fun thing to read at the end of the year: it’s one long cycle of sixty-three poems that’s ostensibly set in Shropshire’s ‘blue remembered hills’, which has a connection for me, in that it’s where my Granny lives and near where she was born and grew up. In fact Housman wasn’t from Shropshire and didn’t visit the part of the county that he writes about before writing the poems; he used Shropshire as the setting of vanished youth.

It has to be said that by the end of the book I was getting a bit fed up with it: it’s all doomed lovers, people speaking from the grave and nostalgia for faded youth, and it’s written in very tight metrical style that gets a bit exhausting after a while. But parts of it were lovely to read. One of the most famous pieces is this one, which is no less beautiful for its being so familiar:

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

A Shropshire Lad, A.E. Housman (Dover Thrift Editions, 1990, following the authorised 1924 edition)