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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