Therefore, since the world has still Much good, but much less good than ill, And while the sun and moon endure Luck's a chance, but trouble's sure, I'd face it as a wise man would, And train for ill and not for good. Oh worse remains for others And worse to fear had I Than here at four-and-twenty To lay me down and die. One the long nights through must lie Spent in star-defeated sighs, But why should you as well as I Perish? It may be thou shalt gain The hell-defended fort. Right you guessed the rising morrow And scorned to tread the mire you must: Dust's your wages, son of sorrow, But men may come to worse than dust. The stark steel splintered from the thrust, The basalt mountain sprang to dust, The blazing pier of diamond flawed In shards of rainbow all abroad.
Ask me no more, for fear I should reply. Blue uses both its meanings, as does hills as actual hills and as distant memories. The Spartans on the sea-wet rock sat down and combed their hair. And midst the fluttering legion Of all that ever died I follow, and before us Goes the delightful guide, With lips that brim with laughter But never once respond, And feet that fly on feathers, And serpent-circled wand. 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. The candles burn their sockets, The blinds let through the day, The young man feels his pockets And wonders what's to pay.
They came and were and are not And come no more anew; And all the years and seasons That ever can ensue Must now be worse and few. Smart lad, to slip betimes away From fields where glory does not stay, And early though the laurel grows It withers quicker than the rose. Smooth between sea and land Is laid the yellow sand, And here through summer days The seed of Adam plays. And you will list the bugle That blows in lands of morn, And make the foes of England Be sorry you were born. And sharp the link of life will snap, And dead on air will stand Heels that held up as straight a chap As treads upon the land. And with kind looks and laughter And nought to say beside, We two went on together, I and my happy guide.
Now the old come out to look, Winter past and winter's pains, How the sky in pool and brook Glitters on the grassy plains. White in the moon the long road lies, The moon stands blank above; White in the moon the long road lies That leads me from my love. How shouldst thou keep the prize? Pass me the can, lad; there's an end of May. Grief and I abode the nightfall, to the sunset grief and he Turned them from the land of Biscay on the waters of the sea. My mouth is dry, my shirt is wet, My blood runs all away, So now I shall not die in debt For thirteen pence a day. The word unsaid will stay unsaid Though there was much to say; Last month was time enough: he's dead, The news must keep for aye.
And over the seas we were bidden A country to take and to keep; And far with the brave I have ridden, And now with the brave I shall sleep. Now to your grave shall friend and stranger With ruth and some with envy come: Undishonoured, clear of danger, Clean of guilt, pass hence and home. Then I saw the morning sky: Heigho, the tale was all a lie; The world, it was the old world yet, I was I, my things were wet, And nothing now remained to do But begin the game anew. On acres of the seeded grasses The changing burnish heaves; Or marshalled under moons of harvest Stand still all night the sheaves; Or beeches strip in storms for winter And stain the wind with leaves. Beyond the moor and mountain crest -- Comrade, look not on the west -- The sun is down and drinks away From air and land the lees of day. On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble; His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves; The gale, it plies the saplings double, And thick on Severn snow the leaves. About your work in town and farm Still you'll keep my head from harm, Still you'll help me, hands that gave A grasp to friend me to the grave.
And now my feet are tired of rest, And here they will not stay, And the soul fevers in my breast And aches to be away. When shall I be dead and rid Of the wrong my father did? Could man be drunk for ever With liquor, love, or fights, Lief should I rouse at morning And lief lie down at nights. East and west on fields forgotten Bleach the bones of comrades slain, Lovely lads and dead and rotten; None that go return again. If by chance your eye offend you, Pluck it out, lad, and be sound: 'Twill hurt, but here are salves to friend you, And many a balsam grows on ground. My friends are up and dressed and dying, And I will dress and die. The gale, it plies the saplings double, It blows so hard, 'twill soon be gone: To-day the Roman and his trouble Are ashes under Uricon.
Oh, many a month before I learn Will find me starting still And listening, as the days return, For him that never will. The living are the living And dead the dead will stay, And I will sort with comrades That face the beam of day. Oh, God will save her, fear you not; Be you the men you've been, Get you the sons your fathers got, And God will save the Queen. Look left, look right, the hills are bright, The dales are light between, Because 'tis fifty years to-night That God has saved the Queen. It is no gift I tender, A loan is all I can; But do not scorn the lender; Man gets no more from man. Housman - selected poems A. The year might age, and cloudy The lessening day might close, But air of other summers Breathed from beyond the snows, And I had hope of those.
He would not stay for me to stand and gaze. How clear, how lovely bright, How beautiful to sight Those beams of morning play; How heaven laughs out with glee Where, like a bird set free, Up from the eastern sea Soars the delightful day. He would not stay for me, and who can wonder? Here, on the level sand, Between the sea and land, What shall I build or write Against the fall of night? Oh follow me where she is flown Into the leafy woods alone, And I will work you ill. They ask, and there is not an answer; Says I, I will 'list for a lancer, Oh who would not sleep with the brave? I, a stranger and afraid In a world I never made. Housman deliberately employs several archaic words — springing, strown, unbeknown- which give the episode a timeless quality. My dreams are of a field afar And blood and smoke and shot.
O thou that from thy mansion Through time and place to roam, Dost send abroad thy children, And then dost call them home, That men and tribes and nations And all thy hand hath made May shelter them from sunshine In thine eternal shade: We now to peace and darkness And earth and thee restore Thy creature that thou madest And wilt cast forth no more. East and west on fields forgotten Bleach the bones of comrades slain, Lovely lads and dead and rotten; None that go return again. Sleep, my lad; the French are landed, London's burning, Windsor's down; Clasp your cloak of earth about you, We must man the ditch without you, March unled and fight short-handed, Charge to fall and swim to drown. Yonder, lightening other loads, The seasons range the country roads, But here in London streets I ken No such helpmates, only men; And these are not in plight to bear, If they would, another's care. He gathered all that sprang to birth From the many-venomed earth; First a little, thence to more, He sampled all her killing store; And easy, smiling, seasoned sound, Sate the king when healths went round. Morning up the eastern stair Marches, azuring the air, And the foot of twilight still Is stolen toward the western sill.