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A Short Analysis of A. E. Housman’s ‘On Wenlock Edge the Wood’s in Trouble’

‘On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble’: it’s one of A. E. Housman’s most arresting opening lines. Why, or indeed how, is the wood ‘in trouble’? What follows is one of the greatest poetic meditations on the smallness of the individual life when set against the grand sweep of history.

On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble;
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

’Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
When Uricon the city stood:
’Tis the old wind in the old anger,
But then it threshed another wood. Read the rest of this entry

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A Short Analysis of A. E. Housman’s ‘To an Athlete Dying Young’

One of the most famous and best-loved poems in A. E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, ‘To an Athlete Dying Young’ is a powerful eulogy for a man who is the human embodiment of physical fitness and prowess, but who faces an early death owing to illness.

To an Athlete Dying Young

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay, Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of A. E. Housman’s ‘Into my heart an air that kills’

A critical reading of a nostalgic poem

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) was one of the greatest classicists of his age, and was also, following the success of his (self-published) first volume of poems, A Shropshire Lad (1896), a hugely popular poet. Like Thomas Hardy, the majority of his poems are written in such a plain and direct style that further analysis or critical interpretation may seem unnecessary; but, as ever, it is worth examining how Housman creates the emotional punch that his poem carries. The fortieth poem from A Shropshire Lad, which begins ‘Into my heart an air that kills’, is one of his most famous poems, a short lyric about nostalgia and growing old.

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again. Read the rest of this entry