1 Zugor

Housman Essay

These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community. We are thankful of their contributions and encourage you to make your own.

A Shropshire Lad

Housman entered Oxford University in 1877 and did very well at first before confounding everyone by failing his examinations in 1881. As a result, he did not actually graduated with a degree until 1892 and this disappointing college experience fueled one of his most famous works, A Shropshire Lad. Four years after finally attaining that degree, Housman self-published this work comprising 63 verses in mostly ballad-form that permeate with the halcyon scent of nostalgia situated in a mostly fictional reimagining of Shropshire. The semi-fictionalizing continues with Housman’s invention of a persona standing in for himself named Terence Hearsay. The verses in “A Shropshire Lad” are short with many lasting little longer than a single stanza overlaid with a rigid symmetrical rhyming on alternative lines.

To An Athlete Dying Young

The poem “To an Athlete Dying Young” is, as might be suspected, addressed to a young man whose death is celebrated primarily on account of his having achieved the ultimate in local glory by winding up a victorious in a race that, as these things do, is co-opted by the townsfolk as confirmation of their own glory. The youth’s death results in that rarest of events: honor of the same level through the act of mourning his premature passing. The narrator of the verse even goes so far as to suggest that the athlete chose to go out while the fires of the memory of his glory was still burning at its brightest; in this way, he even managed to beat out death by using it to avoid the inexorably probability of suffering the hero’s predictably tragic fall from grace.

Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now

The second verse in A Shropshire Lad, “Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now,” is a meditation upon the brief burning candle that is the human life span. Housman manages to utilize a remarkable control of allusion within this short expanse of verse to create the very definition of poetry through a tightly controlled comparison of the fragility of human life to the fragility of the natural world around them.

When I was One and Twenty

This poem is actually a dramatic monologue in which the speaker admits to having failed to take to heart the advice of a more experienced man on the issue of protecting himself from heartbreak. The verse details with exquisite emotional tenor the universal misery that comes with having lost in love at a tender age. What is especially unique about this work is the way that the pain of heartbreak is couched in the almost musical mood of a lighter approach to using verse to express emotional turmoil.

Shake Hands, We Shall Never Be Friends

Diaries made public after Housman’s death revealed that one of the causes behind his delayed graduation from Oxford emotional turmoil resulting from the awakening awareness of his homosexuality and the subsequent rejection by a student named Moses Jackson. The bittersweet result of that unhappy period were poems like “Shake Hands, We Shall Never Be Friends” which exhibits Housman trying to make sense of a relationship coming part at the seams for reasons he seemingly isn’t yet fully capable of understanding.

Because I Liked You Better

This is another poem directed toward Moses Jackson and although the rhyming scheme lends it a certain musical quality, the eloquent choice of understated words to cover up the emotional intensity underlying them becomes almost a textbook demonstration of how Victorian morality regulated homosexual desire during the period covered by the remembrance and the composition and publication of that remembrance.


Obviously not quite over Moses Jackson, this poem which is found in the collection Last Poems was written on the occasion of Jackson’s wedding. The emotional depth of the poem is enhanced with the realization that Housman was pointedly not extended an invitation to attend the ceremony.

Hell Gate

This poems also found in Last Poems is notable for its atypical length in a Housman verse. The poem also leaves behind the Victorian distancing by taking up the issues of homosexuality full throttle through an allegorical background pitting the poems’ two protagonists as warriors taking up arms in a rebellion against the authority of Sin and Death in a battle pitched before the very gates of hell.

Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

Another poem found in Last Poems that presents a battle in allegorical form, this poem essentially examines what happens when God decides to abandon His creations. The answer may be surprising to some and obvious to others: mercenaries must be entrusted to take over the duties which God can no longer be depended upon to complete.

Update this section!

You can help us out by revising, improving and updating this section.

Update this section

After you claim a section you’ll have 24 hours to send in a draft. An editor will review the submission and either publish your submission or provide feedback.

The Literary Style Of A.E. Housman

A.E. Housman, perhaps one of modern poetry's most enigmatic writers, was well known for his mastery of concise language. His poem "The night is freezing fast" perfectly illustrates his typical style: short, but effective. Housman makes the most of his carefully selected words as he ties together themes of death, bereavement, and the afterlife with creative poetic devices.

Housman's commentary on the nature of the afterlife gives his elegy a universal appeal. The idea of spending eternity sleeping nestled warm and cozy deep within the "turning globe" (l. 12) is certainly comforting. Housman does not portray death as a frightening experience, but rather as an escape from all worldly discomforts, such as the chill of winter. The brief nature of the poem might also point to Housman's views of death. It is inevitable, and quick: for years a person is living, and then in a single moment, he is dead. Therefore, death is not worth the exhaustion of a long, drawn-out poem. It is not something to be feared, because it is not slow or painful. Housman also indicates that people should not waste time grieving over the death of a loved one, because death is not fearful.

Despite the overall morbid theme of death and dying, there is no overwhelming emotion displayed by the poet. Housman hints at the intense relationship between Dick and himself, through the phrase "chiefly I remember / How Dick would hate the cold." (l. 6) Housman indicates that he and Dick were close--the mere coming of winter reminds him of "winterfalls of old" (l. 3) spent with his friend. The fact that he knew of Dick's aversion to cold weather means that he knew Dick at a personal level. However, Housman does not directly disclose anything about their relationship. He does not refer to Dick as "friend," or any other affectionate term. He does not mention the number of years they knew each other, detail Dick's death, or even say that he misses Dick. There is deep sentiment implied, but not explicitly stated.

This understatement of the poet's feelings is exactly what gives the poem so much intensity. Through meiosis, the narrator lets the reader know exactly how much Dick's death meant to him. Rather than go over the top with maudlin descriptions of his grief, the lack of any emotional language takes the poem in a direction opposite than expected. The setup of the first stanza is traditional: the winter reminds the narrator of the death of his friend. But then in the second stanza, instead of mourning, the narrator jokes that his friend is staying warm in his figurative overcoat of "earth and sea" (l. 10). It is somewhat of a grotesque image, when taken literally. Dick's lifeless body, buried in the ground, is indeed protected from the chill of winter. However, it is this very fact in which the poet takes the most comfort, because Dick hated the cold. The tone of the second stanza is ironic, and the reader consequently looks at the poem in a...

Loading: Checking Spelling


Read more


3512 words - 14 pages COMPARATIVE OF THE LIVES AND TIMES, AND POETRY OFROBERT HERRICK & A. E. HOUSMANRobert Herrick was a 17th-century English lyric poet and cleric. Born in London in 1591, he lived to the age of 83 and was buried in 1674. By age sixteen, Herrick...

Literary Style of Thomas Page vs. f John Crowe Ransom

1895 words - 8 pages With the dawn of the new south immediately following the civil war, southern literature metamorphosed to reflect a sense of nostalgia for what had been and no longer was. The literary canon of the time contained thematic expressions of yearning over the “Lost South” and the tradition and stability most writers felt the old South had once embodied. However, different writers utilized contrasting literary styles to convey this message. For...

The Significance of Style

1277 words - 5 pages The Significance of Style Robert Burton, lifelong scholar and librarian in the 16th century, wrote: “It is most true, stylus virum arguit,--our style betrays us” (qtd. in Bartlett). Whether inserting the most complicated words possible in order to sound scholarly, littering sentences by overusing slang and contractions, or keeping every sentence to a tight structure of subject, verb, object with no variation—these elements of...

The Concept of Communication Style

994 words - 4 pages The Concept of Communication Style The concept of communication style has been defined by Rober Norton as "the way one verbally, nonverbally, and para verbally interacts to signal how literal meaning should be taken, interpreted, filtered, or understood"(1996.p.229) In this, Norton has identified nine communicator styles. A persons style may be dominant, dramatic, contentious, animated ,impression leaving, relaxed, open, or friendly....

Depictions of the Literary Sublime

1148 words - 5 pages The representation of sublimity in William Wordsworth’s “I wandered lonely as a cloud,” Percy Shelley’s “To a Sky-Lark,” and Gerald Hopkins “As Kingfishers Catch Fire” is characterized by the beauty and forms of nature, the power of nature, and the use of metaphors in descriptive passages. They use the sublime to express the grandeur of nature and to describe specific objects of nature. The writers also employ the sublime as a way to...

Literary Insperation of the Holocaust

2450 words - 10 pages Literary Insperation of the Holocaust Why do the survivors of such a tragic event such as the Holocaust want to remember those horrifying times by writing about memories that most people would only want to forget? I will show, Weisel has talked about, and as others have written, that the victims of the holocaust wrote about their experiences not only to preserve the history of the event, but so that those who were not involved and those...

Style Analysis of The Story of Gilgamesh

654 words - 3 pages The Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh dates back more than 3800 years ago through spoken word until poets began inscribing it later for future reference. It is one of the greatest pieces of literature from the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia known to modern scholars and features what is probably the world's first human hero in literature. In analyzing this...

Style of The Fire Next Time

542 words - 2 pages Style of The Fire Next Time James Baldwin is one of the premier essayists of his time. He draws on his experiences in a straightforward, unapologetic manner, which helps achieve his purpose in The Fire Next Time. His style elucidates his arguments for racial harmony and for the understanding of other religions. The Fire Next Time is a remarkable showcase of Baldwin's talents. His collection of essays is clear, potent, and to the...

The writing style of Ernest Hemingway.

2202 words - 9 pages THE WRITING STYLE OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY(Name) English III - CPJune 09, 2003 (Teacher's name)(last name) 1OUTLINETHESIS STATEMENT: The usage of repetition and ambiguous words in the work of Ernest Hemingway is a well-known characteristic of his writing style. This type of writing is similar throughout all his books and short...

The Poetic Style of Henry Charles Bukowski

841 words - 3 pages Henry Charles Bukowski Poetry is the art of rhythmical composition written or spoken for exciting pleasure by beauty imaginative or elevated thought. It is also literary work in metrical form. By definition, a poet is a person how composes poetry. The relationship between poetry and the late Henry Charles Bukowski is equivalent to that of a professional ice skater and the...

The Leadership Style of King David

3130 words - 13 pages Leadership 1 Essay 1 Take one leader in the Bible, other than Jesus, and evaluate his or her leadership style from using the framework of modern thinking on leadership and your own theological reflection.IntroductionIn her book "Leadership Can Be Taught", Sharon Parks (2005, p.3.) suggests that the study of leadership is "important for the common good" in today's "complex changing world". The term "complex...

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *