Alfred Edward Housman

Alfred Edward Housman

Biography of Alfred Edward Housman

Alfred Edward Housman was born in Fockbury, Worcestershire, England, on March 26, 1859, the eldest of seven children. A year after his birth, Housman’s family moved to nearby Bromsgrove, where the poet grew up and had his early education. In 1877, he attended St. John’s College, Oxford and received first class honours in classical moderations.

Housman became distracted, however, when he fell in love with his heterosexual roommate Moses Jackson. He unexpectedly failed his final exams, but managed to pass the final year and later took a position as clerk in the Patent Office in London for ten years.

During this time he studied Greek and Roman classics intensively, and in 1892 was appointed professor of Latin at University College, London. In 1911 he became professor of Latin at Trinity College, Cambridge, a post he held until his death. As a classicist, Housman gained renown for his editions of the Roman poets Juvenal, Lucan, and Manilius, as well as his meticulous and intelligent commentaries and his disdain for the unscholarly.

Housman only published two volumes of poetry during his life: A Shropshire Lad (1896) and Last Poems (1922). The majority of the poems in A Shropshire Lad, his cycle of 63 poems, were written after the death of Adalbert Jackson, Housman’s friend and companion, in 1892. These poems center around themes of pastoral beauty, unrequited love, fleeting youth, grief, death, and the patriotism of the common soldier. After the manuscript had been turned down by several publishers, Housman decided to publish it at his own expense, much to the surprise of his colleagues and students.

While A Shropshire Lad was slow to gain in popularity, the advent of war, first in the Boer War and then in World War I, gave the book widespread appeal due to its nostalgic depiction of brave English soldiers. Several composers created musical settings for Housman’s work, deepening his popularity.

Housman continued to focus on his teaching, but in the early 1920s, when his old friend Moses Jackson was dying, Housman chose to assemble his best unpublished poems so that Jackson might read them. These later poems, most of them written before 1910, exhibit a range of subject and form much greater than the talents displayed in A Shropshire Lad. When Last Poems was published in 1922, it was an immediate success.

A third volume, More Poems, was released posthumously in 1936 by his brother, Laurence, as was an edition of Housman’s Complete Poems (1939).

Despite acclaim as a scholar and a poet in his lifetime, Housman lived as a recluse, rejecting honors and avoiding the public eye. He died on April 30, 1936, in Cambridge.

Poems by Alfred Edward Housman

  1. 1887
  2. A Shropshire Lad, Ii
  3. Along The Field As We Came By
  4. An Epitaph
  5. As Through The Wild Green Hills Of Wyre
  6. Astronomy
  7. Be Still, My Soul, Be Still
  8. Bredon Hill
  9. Bring, In This Timeless Grave To Throw
  10. Could Man Be Drunk Forever
  11. Crossing Alone The Nighted Ferry
  12. Diffugere Nives
  13. Eight O'Clock
  14. Epitaph On An Army Of Mercenaries
  15. Far In A Western Brookland
  16. Farewell To A Name And Number
  17. Farewell To Barn And Stack And Tree
  18. For My Funeral
  19. Fragment Of A Greek Tragedy
  20. From Far, From Eve And Morning
  21. Good Creatures Do You Love Your Lives
  22. Goodnight
  23. He Would Not Stay With Me And Who Can Wonder
  24. Hell's Gate
  25. Her Strong Enchantments Failing
  26. Here Dead We Lie
  27. Ho, Everyone That Thirsteth
  28. How Clear, How Lovely Bright
  29. Hughley Steeple
  30. I Hoed And Trenched And Weeded
  31. I: Easter Hymn
  32. If By Chance Your Eye Offend You
  33. If Truth In Hearts That Perish
  34. In My Own Shire, If I Was Sad
  35. In Valleys Of Springs And Rivers
  36. Into My Heart An Air That Kills
  37. Is My Team Ploughing
  38. It Nods And Curtseys And Recovers
  39. Lancer
  40. Loitering With A Vacant Eye
  41. Look Not In My Eyes, For Fear
  42. Loveliest Of Trees, The Cherry Now
  43. Lx: Now Hollow Fires Burn Out To Black
  44. March
  45. Now Dreary Dawns The Eastern Light
  46. Now Hollow Fires Burn Out To Black
  47. O Why Do You Walk (A Parody)
  48. Oh Fair Enough Are Sky And Plain
  49. Oh Stay At Home, My Lad
  50. Oh Who Is That Young Sinner
  51. Oh, See How Thick The Goldcup Flowers
  52. Oh, When I Was In Love With You
  53. On Moonlit Heath And Lonesome Bank
  54. On The Idle Hill Of Summer
  55. On Wenlock Edge The Wood's In Trouble
  56. On Your Midnight Pallet Lying
  57. Others, I Am Not The First
  58. R L S
  59. Reveille
  60. Revolution
  61. Say, Lad, Have You Things To Do?
  62. Shot? So Quick, So Clean An Ending?
  63. Soldier from the wars returning
  64. Spring Morning
  65. Stars
  66. Tell Me Not Here, It Needs Not Saying
  67. Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff
  68. The Carpenter's Son
  69. The Chestnut Casts His Flambeaux
  70. The Day Of Battle
  71. The Fairies Break Their Dances
  72. The Grizzly Bear
  73. The Half-Moon Westers Low My Love
  74. The Immortal Part
  75. The Isle Of Portland
  76. The Lads In Their Hundreds
  77. The Laws Of God, The Laws Of Man
  78. The Lent Lily
  79. The Merry Guide
  80. The Mill Stream Now That Noises Cease
  81. The New Mistress
  82. The Night Is Freezing Fast
  83. The Nonsense Verse
  84. The Rain It Streams On Stone And Hillock
  85. The Rainy Pleiads Wester
  86. The Recruit
  87. The Sloe Was Lost In Flower
  88. The Stars Have Not Dealt Me The Worst They Could Do
  89. The Stinging Nettle
  90. The Street Sounds To The Soldiers' Tread
  91. The True Lover
  92. The Welsh Marches
  93. The Winds Out Of The West Land Blow
  94. The World Goes None The Lamer
  95. There Pass The Careless People
  96. Think No More, Lad
  97. This Time Of Year A Twelvemonth Past
  98. Tis Five Years Since, An End Said I
  99. Tis Time, I Think, By Wenlock Town
  100. Tis Time, I Think, By Wenlock Town
  101. To An Athlete Dying Young
  102. Twice A Week The Winter Thorough
  103. Wake Not For The World-Heard Thunder
  104. Westward On The High-Hilled Plains
  105. When First My Way To Fair I Took
  106. When I Came Last To Ludlow
  107. When I Was One-And-Twenty
  108. When I Watch The Living Meet
  109. When I Would Muse In Boyhood
  110. When Smoke Stood Up From Ludlow
  111. When The Eye Of Day Is Shut
  112. When The Lad For Longing Sighs
  113. White In The Moon The Long Road Lies
  114. With Rue My Heart Is Laden
  115. You Smile Upon Your Friend To-Day