On This Day – the birth of A.E. Housman

This is not my usual sort of post but oh well literature is one of the arts.

1859 – 1936

Alfred Edward Housman is perhaps on the best known 20th Century, English poets – and writely so (bad dum tch).

A classical scholar primarily, Housman had studied at Cambridge and is best known for his poems of The Shropshire Lad. He later became a Latin professor at University College London after having published a series of well received papers on the basic Greek and Roman tragic playwrights and their works.

Housman was a troubled sort and his poems reflect this – a great many of his poems are dedicated and directed at Moses Jackson, his room – mate and unrequited lover. A poem under the title of XLI – A.J.J commemorates his death.

Perhaps where I have come across Housman’s work most is in Alan Bennett’s play, The History Boys – in which the aged and tangental General Studies teacher, Hector, quotes copiously from the works of Housman, Auden and the many plays and films that he and the boys all know.

Here is a poem of Housmans that I especially like…

Loveliest of Trees

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.


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