an Athlete Dying Young
by A.E. Housman
interpreted by Gailey Walters
time you won your town the race
chaired you through the market-place;
and boy stood cheering by,
home we brought you shoulder high.
the road all runners come,
we bring you home,
set you at your threshold down,
of a stiller town.
lad, to slip betimes away
fields where glory does not stay,
early though the laurel grows
withers quicker than a rose.
the shady night has shut
see the record cut,
silence sounds no worse than cheers
earth has stopped the ears:
you will not swell the rout
lads that wore their honors out,
whom renown outran
the name died before the man.
set, before its echoes fade,
fleet foot on the sill of shade,
hold to the low lintel up
round that early-laureled head
flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
find unwithered on its curls
garland briefer than a girl's.
Poet: A.E. Housman- A.E. Housman was born
in Fockbury, Worcestershire, and Educated at Oxford University. Although
after failing his exams he was thrown out of the college to become a clerk
at a patent office in London. During this time at the patent office he
developed his writing skills by creating many publications on other writers
famous at his time. A while later, he became a Latin professor at the
University College of London, then a Latin Professor at the University
of Cambridge. Housman was one of the greatest scholars of his time, publishing
many journals, and combined Latin poetry of Juvenal, Lucan, and Manilius.
Vocabulary: Laurel - a tree or plant that
was made into a wreath to crown the
winners of contests in Ancient Greece
- to expand above the normal level in ones surroundings
- to pass away swiftly, to disappear
- a heavy horizontal timber or line of masonry, supporting a
- The horizontal crosspiece above a door that holds the
structure above it
Type of poem: Narrative poem
Speaker: A good friend of a young boy who
has died at war (this boy was once the athletic superstar of his town).
Audience: The young boy who has died at war.
Tone: There is a very mourning tone. This
young boy's friend is recalling the days of their youth, and how things
were when they were young. Only, to then go on describing how their youth
has been stolen away by the war.
Meaning: The meaning of the poem is that though a person is
dead, they or their legend are still living on (if only in memory). When
it is obvious the athlete has died, "Eyes the shady night has shut,"
(To an Athlete Dying Young, Housman) the author continues to describe
the athlete living out a victory. This is symbolizing that somewhere out
there the athlete is still living on.
Structure of poem: - Traditional Verse
Each stanza is 4 lyrics long
There is a flowing rhythm
There is a rhyme scheme of: aabb, ccdd
There is an end-rhyme scheme pattern.
Examples of poetic techniques used in the poem:
early though the laurel grows,"
the name died before the man."
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,"
the shady night has shut,"
fleet foot on the still of shade,"
Connection between the poem and the poet's life and/or
times: Housman wrote this poem during World War I when many
young boys were leaving home to fight in the war. When leaving their hometown
in the English countryside to become soldiers, it was like leaving their
youth at home. As well in the poem, a young boy has put his youth aside
to give his life away in the war. The poem relates to Housman's times
by expressing the sorrow and missed opportunity of many young men becoming
Most memorable quote from the poem: "And home we brought
you shoulder high."
© Smelli Notes 2001