Friday, April 1, 2016

The Living Dead


XVIII

By A E Housman 1859-1936

The rain, it streams on stone and hillock,  
The boot clings to the clay.
Since all is done that's due and right
Let's home; and now, my lad, good-night,  
For I must turn away.  

Good-night, my lad, for nought's eternal;  
No league of ours, for sure.
To-morrow I shall miss you less,
And ache of heart and heaviness  
Are things that time should cure.  

Over the hill the highway marches  
And what's beyond is wide:
Oh soon enough will pine to nought
Remembrance and the faithful thought  
That sits the grave beside.  

The skies, they are not always raining  
Nor grey the twelvemonth through;
And I shall meet good days and mirth,
And range the lovely lands of earth  
With friends no worse than you.  

But oh, my man, the house is fallen  
That none can build again;
My man, how full of joy and woe
Your mother bore you years ago   
Tonight to lie in the rain.



The link on the poet's name, above, refers you to a previous posting of a poem by Housman in this series, with all the background information I found about him that time.

I like to give you the experience of a great variety of poets, but many are worth repeating – and in this case, I’ve had this poem ‘on the brain ‘ a bit lately. (Do you find that happens to you too, with favourite poems, as with songs?)

I like its down-to-earth acceptance of both death and grief. The poem is at once emotional and philosophical. The dead man may have been close friend or family member – clearly, someone loved and valued. Housman manages to make this elegy both personal and universal.

I like the restrained, almost commonplace language and conversational tone, which encompass the ‘let’s get on with it’ mood of the first verse, the aching cry at the end, and the journey of reflection in between.

In all his poems Housman had ‘the art that conceals art’: straightforward words in a simple ballad style with obvious but unobtrusive rhymes, adding up to huge emotional power.

Yes, this poem has a sad subject, yet I find it also both satisfying and cathartic.


Writings and photos posted in The Living Dead for study and review remain the property of the copyright owners.

7 comments:

  1. I, too, admire the forthright tone, which encompasses both grief and the matter-of-factness of death. As you say, he makes it both personal and universal. Sigh. Great choice, Rosemary. Thank you.

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  2. Me, too, to everything you say, Rosemary. Thank you for this Houseman treat. I have tears in my eyes.

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  3. His ballad style distantly reminds me Robert Burns tone. Interesting discovery, thank you, Rosemary.

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  4. I agree that this poem is personal as well as universal. Accepting what cannot be denied. Indeed a satisfying poem! Thank you, Rosemary....I had not read Housman in a while!

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  5. the poem will croon in my heart for a long time...thank you Rosemary...

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  6. I like this poem too for its simplicity yet profound truths about the end of a relationship, the sadness of it all. Thank you for this Rosemary.

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