A.E. Housman’s “A Shropshire Lad”

I read these 60 or do little lyrics yesterday as a birthday treat, and about two-thirds of the way through was convinced they were the best poems ever (but I wasn’t so sure by the end). So simple – regular meter and rhyme, written almost entirely in monosyllables, and so clear and direct in their beautiful expression of the ideas of memento mori & carpe diem, the pain of love, and the virtues of the countryside as opposed to the city, specifically London.

There’s a pattern, a narrative development, as the Shropshire lad encounters love, becomes a soldier, loses friends who die young, and travels to London. The meters are usually iambic, but there are some excellent trochaic poems, and at least one anapaestic venture.
The photographs show pages of the edition I read, with the dedication to Othona and a lovely pre-1971 London bus ticket which has been there so long the pages have taken on its imprint. Wonder if the reader on the 33 felt the same about London as the poet in poem XLI (last picture)? Poem XXXII is the most moving.

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