Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries These, in the day when heaven was falling, The hour when earth's foundations fled,Followed their mercenary callingAnd took their wages and are dead. Their shoulders held the sky suspended;They stood, and earth's foundations stay;What God abandoned, these defended,And saved the sum of things for pay.
The half-moon westers low, my love,And the wind brings up the rain;And wide apart lie we, my love,And seas between the twain.I know not if it rains, my love, In the land where you do lie;And oh, so sound you sleep, my love,You know no more than I."
You smile upon your friend to-day, To-day his ills are over; You hearken to the lover's say, And happy is the lover. 'Tis late to hearken, late to smile, But better late than never: I shall have lived a little while Before I die for ever.
Tis spring; come out to ramble The hilly brakes around, For under thorn and bramble About the hollow ground The primroses are found. And there's the windflower chilly With all the winds at play, And there's the Lenten lily That has not long to stay And dies on Easter day.
Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrist? And what has he been after that they groan and shake their fists? And wherefore is he wearing such a conscience-stricken air? Oh they're taking him to prison for the colour of his hair.
If a man will comprehend the richness and variety of the universe, and inspire his mind with a due measure of wonder and awe, he must contemplate the human intellect not only on its heights of genius but in its abysses of ineptitude...
Housman is one of my heroes and always has been. He was a detestable and miserable man. Arrogant, unspeakably lonely, cruel, and so on, but and absolutely marvellous minor poet, I think, and a great scholar.
The sum of things to be known is inexhaustible, and however long we read, we shall never come to the end of our story-book."(Introductory lecture as professor of Latin at University College, London, 3 October 1892)
I to my perilsOf cheat and charmerCame clad in armourBy stars benign.Hope lies to mortalsAnd most believe her,But man's deceiver Was never mine.The thoughts of othersWere light and fleeting,Of lovers' meetingOr luck or fame.Mine were of trouble,And mine were steady;So I was readyWhen trouble came.
Good night; ensured release, Imperishable peace, Have these for yours. * While sky and sea and land And earth's foundations stand And heaven endures. *These three lines are on the tablet over Housman's grave in the parish church at Ludlow, Shropshire, England
Mithridates, he died old. Housman's passage is based on the belief of the ancients that Mithridates the Great [c. 135-63 B.C.] had so saturated his body with poisons that none could injure him. When captured by the Romans he tried in vain to poison himself, then ordered a Gallic mercenary to kill him.
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. Still hangs the hedge without a gust, Still, still the shadows stay: My feet upon the moonlit dust Pursue the ceaseless way. The world is round, so travellers tell, And straight through reach the track, Trudge on, trudge on, 'twill all be well, The way will guide one back. But ere the circle homeward hies Far, far must it remove: White in the moon the long road lies That leads me from my love.
Why, if 'tis dancing you would be, There's brisker pipes than poetry. Say, for what were hop-yards meant, Or why was Burton built on Trent? Oh many a peer of England brews Livelier liquor than the Muse, And malt does more than Milton can To justify God's ways to man. Ale, man, ale's the stuff to drink For fellows whom it hurts to think: Look into the pewter pot To see the world as the world's not.
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now Is hung with bloom along the bough, And stands about the woodland ride Wearing white for Eastertide. Now, of my threescore years and ten, Twenty will not come again, And take from seventy springs a score, It only leaves me fifty more. And since to look at things in bloom Fifty springs are little room, About the woodlands I will go To see the cherry hung with snow.
I sought them far and found them, The sure, the straight, the brave, The hearts I lost my own to, The souls I could not save They braced their belts about them, They crossed in ships the sea, They sought and found six feet of ground, And there they died for me.
Existence is not itself a good thing, that we should spend a lifetime securing its necessaries: a life spent, however victoriously, in securing the necessaries of life is no more than an elaborate furnishing and decoration of apartments for the reception of a guest who is never to come. Our business here is not to live, but to live happily.
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.
Into my hear an air that kills through yon far country blows what are those blue remembered hills what spires,what farms are those? that is the land of lost content I can see it shining plain the happy highways where I went and cannot come again.
These, in the day when heaven was falling, The hour when earth's foundations fled, Followed their mercenary calling And took their wages and are dead. The British regulars who made the retreat from Mons, beginning August 24, 1914.
'Tis spring; come out to ramble The hilly brakes around, For under thorn and bramble About the hollow ground The primroses are found. And there's the windflower chilly With all the winds at play, And there's the Lenten lily That has not long to stay And dies on Easter day.
Oh when I was in love with you, Then I was clean and brave, And miles around the wonder grew How well did I behave. And now the fancy passes by, And nothing will remain, And miles around they'll say that I Am quite myself again.
When I was one-and-twenty I heard a wise man say, `Give crowns and pounds and guineas But not your heart away; Give pearls away and rubies But keep your fancy free.' But I was one-and-twenty No use to talk to me. When I was one-and-twenty I heard him say again, `The heart out of the bosom Was never given in vain; 'Tis paid with sighs a plenty And sold for endless rue.' And I am two-and-twenty And oh, 'tis true, 'tis true.
Wanderers eastward, wanderers west, Know you why you cannot rest? 'Tis that every mother's son Travails with a skeleton. Lie down in the bed of dust; Bear the fruit that bear you must; Bring the eternal seed to light, And morn is all the same as night.
Could man be drunk for ever With liquor, love, or fights, Lief should I rouse at morning And lief lie down of nights. But men at whiles are sober And think by fits and starts, And if they think, they fasten Their hands upon their hearts.
Stars, I have seen them fall, But when they drop and die No star is lost at all From all the star-sown sky. The toil of all that be Helps not the primal fault; It rains into the sea And still the sea is salt.
Because I liked you better Than suits a man to say, It irked you, and I promised I'd throw the thought away. To put the world between us We parted stiff and dry: 'Farewell,' said you, 'forget me.' 'Fare well, I will,' said I. If e'er, where clover whitens The dead man's knoll, you pass, And no tall flower to meet you Starts in the trefoiled grass, Halt by the headstone shading The heart you have not stirred, And say the lad that loved you Was one that kept his word.
To be a textual critic requires aptitude for thinking and willingness to think; and though it also requires other things, those things are supplements and cannot be substitutes. Knowledge is good, method is good, but one thing beyond all others is necessary; and that is to have a head, not a pumpkin, on your shoulders and brains, not pudding, in your head.
Poems very seldom consist of poetry and nothing else; and pleasure can be derived also from their other ingredients. I am convinced that most readers, when they think they are admiring poetry, are deceived by inability to analyse their sensations, and that they are really admiring, not the poetry of the passage before them, but something else in it, which they like better than poetry.
Terence, this is stupid stuff: You eat your victuals fast enough; There can't be much amiss, 'tis clear, To see the rate you drink your beer. But oh, good Lord, the verse you make, It gives a chap the belly-ache. The cow, the old cow, she is dead; It sleeps well the horned head: We poor lads, 'tis our turn now To hear such tunes as killed the cow. Pretty friendship 'tis to rhyme Your friends to death before their time. Moping, melancholy mad: Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad.
Happy bridegroom, Hesper brings All desired and timely things. All whom morning sends to roam, Hesper loves to lead them home. Home return who him behold, Child to mother, sheep to fold, Bird to nest from wandering wide: Happy bridegroom, seek your bride.
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. To-day I shall be strong, No more shall yield to wrong, Shall squander life no more; Days lost, I know not how, I shall retrieve them now; Now I shall keep the vow I never kept before. Ensanguining the skies How heavily it dies Into the west away; Past touch and sight and sound Not further to be found, How hopeless under ground Falls the remorseful day.
I am not a pessimist but a pejorist (as George Eliot said she was not an optimist but a meliorist); and that philosophy is founded on my observation of the world, not on anything so trivial and irrelevant as personal history.
On occasions, after drinking a pint of beer at luncheon, there would be a flow into my mind with sudden and unaccountable emotion, sometimes a line or two of verse, sometimes a whole stanza, accompanied, not preceded by a vague notion of the poem which they were destined to form a part of.... I say bubble up because, so far as I could make out, the source of the suggestions thus proffered to the brain was the pit of the stomach.