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
Rupert Brooke remains known for two poems: ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester’, which offers a powerful vision of dreamy English life before the outbreak of the First World War; and ‘The Soldier’, a patriotic sonnet written shortly after the outbreak of the war. But although Brooke was not a prolific poet – he died while still in his twenties – he wrote more than these two anthology favourites. His poem ‘Heaven’ is another classic, although less famous, and deserves a few words of analysis devoted to its quietly satirical tone and clever use of metaphor.
Fish (fly-replete, in depth of June,
Dawdling away their wat’ry noon)
Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
Each secret fishy hope or fear.
Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond? Read the rest of this entry
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) was a remarkable woman: as well as her writing, she is also celebrated for introducing smallpox inoculation to Britain, half a century before Edward Jenner developed vaccination against the disease. ‘A Hymn to the Moon’ is a wonderful short poem about the moon.
Written in July, in an arbour
Thou silver deity of secret night,
Direct my footsteps through the woodland shade;
Thou conscious witness of unknown delight,
The Lover’s guardian, and the Muse’s aid!
By thy pale beams I solitary rove,
To thee my tender grief confide;
Serenely sweet you gild the silent grove,
My friend, my goddess, and my guide.
E’en thee, fair queen, from thy amazing height,
The charms of young Endymion drew;
Veil’d with the mantle of concealing night;
With all thy greatness and thy coldness too. Read the rest of this entry