A. E. Housman’s Minimalist Poetry

A.E. Housman was a minimalist poet, whose spartan lines are matched by only the best Haiku writers. He bitterly and wryly welcomed death, romanticizing its inevitability. He was extremely popular during the First World War and his poems reflected the emotion of the time, with soldiers shamelessly slaughtered in places like Gallipoli. These selections are from A Shropshire Lad, whose poems make up a slim volume. Some editions are beautifully illustrated.

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

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.

Oh, when I was in love with you

Oh, when I was in love with you,
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well did I behave.

And now the fancy passes by,
And nothing will remain,
And miles around they’ll say that I
Am quite myself again.

Is my team ploughing

‘Is my team ploughing,
That I was used to drive
And hear the harness jingle
When I was man alive?’

Ay, the horses trample,
The harness jingles now;
No change though you lie under
The land you used to plough.

‘Is football playing
Along the river shore,
With lads to chase the leather,
Now I stand up no more?’

Ay, the ball is flying,
The lads play heart and soul;
The goal stands up, the keeper
Stands up to keep the goal.

‘Is my girl happy,
That I thought hard to leave,
And has she tired of weeping
As she lies down at eve?’

Ay, she lies down lightly,
She lies not down to weep:
Your girl is well contented.
Be still, my lad, and sleep.

‘Is my friend hearty,
Now I am thin and pine,
And has he found to sleep in
A better bed than mine?’

Yes, lad, I lie easy,
I lie as lads would choose;
I cheer a dead man’s sweetheart,
Never ask me whose.

Far I hear the bugle blow

The Day of Battle

‘Far I hear the bugle blow
To call me where I would not go,
And the guns begin the song,
“Soldier, fly or stay for long.”

‘Comrade, if to turn and fly
Made a soldier never die,
Fly I would, for who would not?
’Tis sure no pleasure to be shot.

‘But since the man that runs away
Lives to die another day,
And cowards’ funerals, when they come,
Are not wept so well at home,

‘Therefore, though the best is bad,
Stand and do the best, my lad;
Stand and fight and see your slain,
And take the bullet in your brain.’

About thomasfarley01

Freelance writer specializing in outdoor subjects, particularly rocks, gems and minerals.
This entry was posted in Poetry, Thoughts on writing, Uncategorized, Writing by others and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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