The Poetry Of A. E. Housman

This essay The Poetry Of A. E. Housman has a total of 837 words and 5 pages.

The Poetry Of A. E. Housman

Housman was born in Burton-On-Trent, England, in 1865, just as the US
Civil War was ending. As a young child, he was disturbed by the news of
slaughter from the former British colonies, and was affected deeply.
This turned him into a brooding, introverted teenager and a misanthropic,
pessimistic adult. This outlook on life shows clearly in his poetry.

Housman believed that people were generally evil, and that life conspired
against mankind. This is evident not only in his poetry, but also in his
short stories. For example, his story, "The Child of Lancashire,"
published in 1893 in The London Gazette, is about an child who travels to
London, where his parents die, and he becomes a street urchin. There are
veiled implications that the child is a homosexual (as was Housman, most
probably), and he becomes mixed up with a gang of similar youths,
attacking affluent pedestrians and stealing their watches and gold coins.
Eventually he leaves the gang and becomes wealthy, but is attacked by
the same gang (who don\'t recognize him) and is thrown off London Bridge
into the Thames, which is unfortunately frozen over, and is killed on the
hard ice below.

Housman\'s poetry is similarly pessimistic. In fully half the poems the
speaker is dead. In others, he is about to die or wants to die, or his
girlfriend is dead. Death is a really important stage of life to
Housman; without death, Housman would probably not have been able to be a
poet. (Housman, himself, died in 1937.) A few of his poems show an
uncharacteristic optimism and love of beauty, however. For example, in
his poem "Trees," he begins

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Hung low with bloom along the bow
Stands about the woodland side
A virgin in white for Eastertide

and ends

Poems are made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree.

(This is a popular quotation, yet most people don\'t know its source!)
Religion is another theme of Housman\'s. Housman seems to have had
trouble reconciling conventional Christianity with his homosexuality and
his deep clinical depression. In "Apologia pro Poemate Meo" he states

In heaven-high musings and many
Far off in the wayward night sky,
I would think that the love I bear you
Would make you unable to die [death again]

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