Alfred Housman

.. love with him. Consequently, she should exchange her happiness and love for his suffering, thus”lie down forlorn; But the lover will be well.” The metaphor Lovers ills are all to buy…Buy them, buy them” is suggesting that the lads happiness is at the maidens expense (Hoagwood 51). Terence Hoagwood claims: The dualized pairs- buy and sell, well and forlorn, lad and maiden- remain opposed (rather than resolved or reconciled) at the poems end, helping to account for the considerable tension that the poem sustains: the contradictions survive, rather than disappearing (as in sentimentalized love poetry) into a happy illusion at the end (Hoagwood 51). In Housmans poetry, he often concentrates on the loss of youthful dreams, the isolation of adolescence, and the sorrows of love.

In the poem When I was One-and-Twenty the love theme is treated critically and insincerely. The theme of the poem is that only experience itself can correct the illusions held by the innocent youth (Leggett 65). Terence Hoagwood states “The poem uses the device of a speaker quoting another speaker to exhibit the problem of different viewpoints, and it uses the change of one single persons viewpoint, over time, to suggest and even more powerful reason for skepticism (Hoagwood 56).” When I was one-and-twenty I heard a wise man say, “Give crowns and pounds and guineas But not your heart away; Give pearls away and rubies But keep your fancy free.” But I was one-and-twenty, No use to talk to me. When I was one-and twenty I heard him say again, “The heart out of the bosom Was never given in vain; Tis paid with sighs a plenty And sold for endless rue.” And I am two-and twenty, And oh, tis true, tis true. In the first stanza Housman is equating the age of twenty-one to inexperience and innocence. The advice of the “wise man” on love to give “crowns and pounds and guineas” is overlooked by the man of one-and-twenty.

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The wise man is suggesting that it is harmless to give a woman jewels and money, but it is foolish to give ones heart away or not to “keep your fancy free.” The transition from innocence to experience occurs in the second stanza. The speaker is given advice from the wise man a second time, but he still does not listen, which results in a broken heart. B.J. Leggett states: The heart differs from pearls and crowns precisely because it cannot be physically given away. It is always sold because the giver receives something in return, and what he receives consists of the sorrows of love which inevitably entails. The fancy can be free only by being kept (Leggett 66).

The speaker of the poem relates his age, “two-and-twenty”, with experience and knowledge. When the speaker stated “tis true, tis true” he came to the realization that the wise man was giving useful advice and that he should not have given his heart away after all. Another technique that Housman uses in his poetry is shift of tone and mood. Usually the poems begin in a blithe manner and end in a negative and dismal mood. One of Housmans poems that employs a shift in perspective is Bredon Hill . Housman also incorporates the love and death theme in this poem.

In summertime on Bredon The bells sound so clear ; Round both the shires they ring them In steeples far and near, A happy noise to hear. Here of a Sunday morning My love and I would lie; And see the coloured counties, And hear the larks so high About us in the sky. The bells would ring to call her In valleys miles away: “Come all to church, good people; Good people, come pray.” But here my love would stay. And I would turn and answer Among the springtime thyme, “Oh, peal upon our wedding, And we will hear the chime, And come to church in time.” But when the snows at Christmas On Bredon top were strown, My love rose up so early And stole out unbeknown And went to church alone. They tolled the one bell only, Groom there was none to see, The mourners followed after, And so to church went she, And would not wait for me.

The bells they sound on Bredon, And still the steeples hum. “Come all to church, good people,”- Oh, Noisy bells, be dumb; I hear you, I will come. In stanzas one and two the speaker is explaining how him and his lover spend many of their Sunday mornings on Bredon Hill listening to the church bells ring through the valleys. The church bells put him in a cheerful mood and are pleasant to listen to. The third stanza suggests that the bells are summoning the woman to church, but instead of making it to the church on time she decides to stay with her lover (Ricks 72).

In the fourth stanza the speaker and his love view the church bells as wedding bells. He states “And we will hear the chime, And come to church in time.” He is suggesting that they will be at the church when it is time for them to get married. In the fifth and sixth stanzas the shift in tone and mood is apparent. His lover has died “and went to church alone.” Therefore, she has “rose up so early” and gone to the church before their time. The “happy” tone that was displayed in the beginning of the poem has transformed into a morbid and dark tone. It is rather obvious that his lover has died when the phrases such as “tolled one bell only,” “Groom there was none to see, and “mourners followed after” are used.

When the speaker states “And so to church went she, And would not wait for me,” he makes her death seem willing. He uses “would not wait” instead of “could not wait,” as if her failure to wait for him were a matter of her own choice (Ricks 73). Cleanth Brooks states “He views the girls death as if it were an act of conscious will, as if he has been betrayed by his lover, who stole out unbeknown, to meet another suitor (Leggett 64).” In the last stanza the speaker notes that the bells are still ringing, but they now represent funeral bells. Cleanth Brooks claims: All come to death; he will come to the churchyard too; but now that his sweetheart has been stolen from him, what does is matter when he comes. the bells whose sound was once a happy noise to hear have become a needless and distracting noisiness. The lover shuts them up as he might the disturbing prattle of a child: “Oh, noisy bells, be dumb; I hear you, I will come (Ricks 73).” Another recurring theme in Housmans poetry is the loss of youth and beauty.

Housmans youths sometimes die into nature and become part of the natural surroundings (Discovering Authors 8). The poem With Rue my Heart is Laden deals with the fading away of youth and beauty and their burial in nature. With rue my heart is laden For golden friends I had, For many a rose-lipped maiden And many a lightfoot lad. By brooks too broad for leaping The lightfoot boys are laid; The rose-lipped girls are sleeping In fields where roses fade. In the first stanza the speaker is explaining how his heart is full of sorrow because all of his friends that were once “golden”, youthful, and beautiful are all dead. The adjective “rose-lipped maiden” is describing the speakers lady friends that were attractive, youthful, and vibrant.

The term”lightfoot lad” is describing the speakers male friends that were handsome, athletic, and strong. In the second stanza the speaker is describing how the “lightfoot boys” now lay next to the “brooks to broad for leaping” that they could once leap in their youth. The “rose-lipped” girls are now “sleeping” in the “fields where roses fade.” These fields used to be beautiful and alive like the maidens once were, but the fields are also getting old and fading away (Discovering Authors 8). “In his roles as a classical scholar and poet, Housman exhibited an unswerving integrity. While this integrity served him well in his classical endeavors, in his poetry it may have relegated him to a rank below that of the major poets of his age (Discovering Authors 4).

Housman never has been a fashionable poet, yet he continues to maintain an audience and his reputation remains steady. The melancholy and pessimism in Housmans poems capture the attention of readers and is perhaps the reason why his poetry is still read and studied today. A.E. Housman was a human figure whose life and career were often moving as well as extraordinary. Bibliography Amis, Kingsley. The New Oxford Book of English Light Verse. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978 Gow, Andrew Sydenham Farrar.

A.E. Housman: A sketch. New York: Macmillan, 1936. Graves, Richard Percival. A.E. Housman, the Scholar-Poet.

New York: Scribner, 1979. Haber, Thomas Burns. A.E. Housman. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1967.

Harmon, William. The Top 500 Poems. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992. Hawkins, Maude M. A.E.

Housman; Man Behind a Mask. Chicago: H. Regency, 1958. Hoagwood, Terence Allan. A.E.

Housman Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1995 Housman, A.E. A Shropshire Lad. London: K. Paul, Trench, Treuber, 1896. Housman, Laurence.

My Brother, A.E. Housman: Personal Recollections. New York: C. Scribners Sons, 1938. Kilvert-Scott, Ian. “A.E.

Housman.” British Writers. Vol. VI. New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1983. Leggett, Bobby Joe.

The Poetic Art of A.E. Housman: Theory and Practice. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978. Magill, Frank N. Critical Survey of Poetry. Vol.

4. New jersey: Salem Press, 1982. Marlow, Norman. A.E. Housman: Scholar and Poet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1958. Page, Norman.

A.E. Housman, A Critical Biography. New York: Schoken Books, 1983. Richards, Grant. Housman, 1897-1936. New York: Octagon Books, 1973. Ricks, Christopher B. A.E.

Housman; A Collection of Critical Essays. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1968. Robinson, Oliver. Angry Dust: The Poetry of A.E. Housman.

New York: Bruce Humphries, 1950. Untermeyer, Louis. Lives of the Poets. New York: Simon and Schuster inc., 1959. Watson, George L. A.E. Housman: A Divided Life.

Boston: Beacon Press, 1958. Withers, Percy. A Buried Life; Personal Recollections of A.E. Housman. Folcroft: Folcroft Library Editions, 1971.


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