Taken from A. E. Housman’s first, and best-known, collection, A Shropshire Lad (1896), ‘You smile upon your friend to-day’ is a short lyric in which the ‘lad’ of the collection’s title, who was originally named Terence Hearsay,
You smile upon your friend to-day,
To-day his ills are over;
You hearken to the lover’s say,
And happy is the lover.
’Tis late to hearken, late to smile,
But better late than never:
I shall have lived a little while
Before I die for ever. Read the rest of this entry
The poet A. E. Housman is best-known for A Shropshire Lad (1896), which became a bestselling volume of poetry at the turn of the century and would later be popular among soldiers during the First World War. ‘The Lent Lily’ is not one of the best-known of Housman’s poems, but it contains the signature twist we find in much of his poetry, as melancholy breaks in on hope.
The Lent Lily
’Tis spring; come out to ramble
The hilly brakes around,
For under thorn and bramble
About the hollow ground
The primroses are found.
And there’s the windflower chilly
With all the winds at play,
And there’s the Lenten lily
That has not long to stay
And dies on Easter day.
And since till girls go maying
You find the primrose still,
And find the windflower playing Read the rest of this entry
‘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