Works of Alfred Edward Housman

A. E. Housman - Selected Poems
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Meanwhile, Housman had been making a name for himself in the small world of textual criticism through spare time study in the British Museum. In , he published A Shropshire Lad , a book of sixty three poems speaking of loss and loneliness, Redcoats, hangings and ale. Larkin called him 'the poet of unhappiness. Orwell confused him with the class war. His poetry is notable for its simplicity, clarity and brevity — yet there is a depth to it as well. Some at UCL said he was scathing yet remote; a man who never troubled to remember the faces of the young women in his classes.

At least one student said he never spoke to anybody individually. Others gave different accounts, of course.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936): A Life in Brief

It was as poet rather than as classical scholar that Housman , in his later years, enjoyed considerable fame, but attempts to turn the conversation towards his poetry were discouraged, sometimes peremptorily, and honorary degrees from a number of universities including, twice, Oxford were all declined, as was, in , the Order of Merit. A Shropshire Lad The time you won your town the race. Housman, A. He was brought up as a devout Christian, but the death of his mother on his twelfth birthday would eventually lead him to reject religion altogether. His father subsequently married a cousin, Lucy Housman on 26 June , and Housman quickly formed a good relationship with his stepmother, as is evident from his earliest surviving letter, written to her during a visit to London probably his first in January

Who knows? Teachers are there to be caricatured. With staff he was more congenial, even genial, and particularly good at dinner. His idea of a good night out was dinner at the Caf— Royal, a music hall, and supper in the Criterion Grille.

Alfred Edward Housman

Now he had money he became bit of a gastronome and oenophile, holidaying in Paris for food , Italy for culture. If you'd asked Housman the great Socratic question: 'How should we live? Somewhere hidden in the errors of a classical text was the truth, the words the poet had written. To find them again was to right a kind of wrong done against the truth. The Tree of Knowledge will make us wise, he argued, because our natures need knowledge to be fulfilled. At high table he could dine with seven Nobel Laureates, four presidents of the Royal Society, the philosophers Whitehead, Russell, Wittgenstein, as well as Rutherford who split the atom, and the man who discovered argon.

In August the Great War broke out. It's hard to know what to make of Housman's attitude. At the outbreak of war he gave most of his money to the Exchequer. But then he seems to have largely ignored wounded men and soldiers under orders for the Front, when Trinity was half-converted into a hospital and barracks. He did contribute verses to The Blunderbuss , a magazine produced by troops billeted there, but it was a tinkling s piece Last Poems II wholly out of keeping with what was going on in Flanders.

Additional Biography Sources

In he holidayed on the Riviera because, he said, the usual appalling people weren't there. But in he refused to make the tedious crossing to Le Havre when Dieppe was closed to civilians. Not out of fear of U-boats, he said. He thought a U-boat had more to fear from being rammed by a steamer than the steamer had of being torpedoed.

And this at time when U-boats were bringing the country to within seven days of defeat. However he did send his sister some verse Last Poems IV when her son was killed in action.


Poetry, he said, is to harmonise the sadness of the universe. The War changed nothing, he claimed. But of course it did. Nothing was ever the same again. His particular kind of scholarship to begin with. He'd always said a scholar had no more concern with the beauty of a text than a botanist had with a flower's. Now he had. Content suddenly mattered, not just form.

Last Poems came out in , the year that Moses Jackson died of stomach cancer in Vancouver. It's very likely the book was written and put together several poems date from the '90s just for him. Jackson read it before he died. The letter Housman wrote has not been made public, but is said to very self-revealing.

Still, he still took afternoon walks in a school-boyish cricket cap, grey suit, starched collar and elastic sided boots. He said 'hello' to no one; this was walking time, talking was for dinner. Every year, too, he vacationed on the Continent; flew there, presumably in converted bombers when passenger flights were in the pioneer stage and the crockery was real, the cutlery silver.

A. E. Housman

He'd lived in the same three Victorian rooms 'bare, bleak, grim, stark, comfortless,' various people called them until he was too frail to climb the stairs. For a time he lived in Trinity's older buildings before going to a nursing home in Trumpington Street where he died, in his sleep during the day. They buried him in Ludlow, for some reason. His brother, Laurence the painter, poet and playwright brought out More Poems and Additional Poem s after his death. All four books are still read and on sale in the bigger London bookstores, which won't stock anything that isn't guaranteed to turn a penny or make a quick buck.

In England a Housman Society is dedicated to him. The music is still played, the songs still sung. Some found him impossible; he could be cold, cutting, and sarcastic. Others remember him playing with the Master of Trinity's grandchildren and their toys. His problem was he couldn't relate to others, through shyness or because of what had happened to him. Small talk didn't come easily didn't in fact come at all , and as a dinner guest his long silences could be a problem.

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But he was, for example, at ease with his brother, Basil, and his sister-in-law, Jeannie. They therefore knew a different man — a happy, teasing, slightly bantering older brother — and were puzzled by his forbidding reputation. His reputation in this field grew steadily, and in he took the Kennedy Professorship of Latin at Trinity College, Cambridge , where he remained for the rest of his life. During , he published his critical edition of Manilius's Astronomicon in five volumes.

Alfred Edward Housman Poems

Alfred Edward Housman usually known as A. E. Housman, was an English classical scholar and poet, best known to the general public for his cycle of poems A Shropshire Lad. Lyrical and almost epigrammatic in form, the poems wistfully evoke the. A. E. Housman - Alfred Edward Housman was born in Fockbury, two volumes of poetry during his life: A Shropshire Lad () and Last Poems ().

He also edited works of Juvenal and Lucan Many colleagues were afraid of his scathing critical attacks on those whom he found guilty of a lack of scholarly rigor. To his students he appeared as a severe, reticent, remote authority figure. Housman always found his true vocation in classical studies and treated poetry as a secondary activity. He died two years later in Cambridge. His ashes are buried near St. Laurence's Church, Ludlow, Shropshire. After several publishers had turned it down, he published it at his own expense in , much to the surprise of his colleagues and students.

At first the book sold slowly, but Housman's nostalgic depiction of brave English soldiers struck a chord with English readers and his poems became a lasting success. World War I would further increase his popularity. Several composers, Arthur Somervell first among them, found inspiration in the seeming folksong-like simplicity of the poems. Housman was surprised by the success of A Shropshire Lad because, like all his poetry, it is imbued with a deep pessimism, with no place for the consolations of religion or hope. Set in a half-imaginative pastoral Shropshire, "the land of lost content" Housman, in fact, wrote most of the poems before ever visiting the place , the poems explore themes like the fleetingness of love and the decay of youth in a spare, uncomplicated style which many critics of the time found out of date compared with the exuberance of some Romantic poets.

Housman himself acknowledged the influence of the songs of William Shakespeare , the Scottish Border Ballads and Heinrich Heine , but specifically denied any influence of Greek and Latin classics in his poetry. In the early s, when Moses Jackson was dying in Canada , Housman wanted to assemble his best unpublished poems together so that Jackson could read them before his death.

These later poems, most of them written before , show a greater variety of subject and form than those in A Shropshire Lad but also a certain lack of the kind of consistency found in the earlier poems. He published them as his Last Poems because he thought that his poetic inspiration was running out and that he would not publish any more poems in his lifetime—an intuition which would be born out.

This poem is a good example of the style and melancholy tone of the whole collection. Many of its poems dwell on mortality, such as Poem LV:. The uniform style and tone of A Shropshire Lad make it an easy target for parody, and Housman was himself aware this his simple, folk-like poems were out of step with the literary trends of his times.

Nevertheless, because of their simplicity and clarity, A Shropshire Lad has remained timeless, and it is easily one of the most popular poetic sequences of recent history. Housman's style is piercing and plain—a remarkable feat for a poet who was so profoundly aware of the history of the literary tradition—and his poems are among the most emotionally moving of the early twentieth century.

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