THE HUMOURESS VERSE OF A E HOUSMAN

The poet A E Housman is best known for his poems about war (and closely connected to that theme, death). However Housman does possess a sense of humour as can be seen from the two poems (both of which can be found in “A Shropshire Lad”) given below.

First, “Is my team ploughing?

“’IS my team ploughing,

  That I was used to drive

And hear the harness jingle

  When I was man alive?’

Ay, the horses trample,

        5

  The harness jingles now;

No change though you lie under

  The land you used to plough.

‘Is football playing

  Along the river shore,

        10

With lads to chase the leather,

  Now I stand up no more?’

Ay, the ball is flying,

  The lads play heart and soul;

The goal stands up, the keeper

        15

  Stands up to keep the goal.

‘Is my girl happy,

  That I thought hard to leave,

And has she tired of weeping

  As she lies down at eve?’

        20

Ay, she lies down lightly,

  She lies not down to weep:

Your girl is well contented.

  Be still, my lad, and sleep.

‘Is my friend hearty,

        25

  Now I am thin and pine,

And has he found to sleep in

  A better bed than mine?’

Yes, lad, I lie easy,

  I lie as lads would choose;

        30

I cheer a dead man’s sweetheart,

  Never ask me whose”

Second, “OH see how thick the goldcup flowers”

“OH see how thick the goldcup flowers

  Are lying in field and lane,

With dandelions to tell the hours

  That never are told again.

Oh may I squire you round the meads

        5

  And pick you posies gay?

—’Twill do no harm to take my arm.

  ’You may, young man, you may.’

Ah, spring was sent for lass and lad,

  ’Tis now the blood runs gold,

        10

And man and maid had best be glad

  Before the world is old.

What flowers to-day may flower to-morrow,

  But never as good as new.

—Suppose I wound my arm right round—

        15

  ‘’Tis true, young man, ’tis true.’

Some lads there are, ’tis shame to say,

  That only court to thieve,

And once they bear the bloom away

  ’Tis little enough they leave.

        20

Then keep your heart for men like me

  And safe from trustless chaps.

My love is true and all for you.

  ‘Perhaps, young man, perhaps.’

Oh, look in my eyes then, can you doubt?

        25

  —Why, ’tis a mile from town.

How green the grass is all about!

  We might as well sit down.

—Ah, life, what is it but a flower?

  Why must true lovers sigh?

        30

Be kind, have pity, my own, my pretty,—

  ‘Good-bye, young man, good-bye.’.”

The above poems are self-explanatory so I won’t comment other than to say that I never fail to smile when reading them.  

 For my previous post on Housman’s wonderful poem, on Wenlock Edge please see http://kevin-morris.co.uk/2011/01/24/the-poetry-of-housman/.

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About kevinmorris101

I live and work in London and blog as a hobby. If you would like to contact me please send an email to animalia at shiftmail.com (the address is rendered in this manner in order to try and defeat spammers)!
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