The Literary Style of A.E. Housman Essay

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A.E. Housman, perhaps one of modern poetry's most enigmatic writers, was well known for his mastery of concise language. His poem "The night is freezing fast" perfectly illustrates his typical style: short, but effective. Housman makes the most of his carefully selected words as he ties together themes of death, bereavement, and the afterlife with creative poetic devices.

Housman's commentary on the nature of the afterlife gives his elegy a universal appeal. The idea of spending eternity sleeping nestled warm and cozy deep within the "turning globe" (l. 12) is certainly comforting. Housman does not portray death as a frightening experience, but rather as an escape from all worldly discomforts, such as the chill of winter.
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There is deep sentiment implied, but not explicitly stated.

This understatement of the poet's feelings is exactly what gives the poem so much intensity. Through meiosis, the narrator lets the reader know exactly how much Dick's death meant to him. Rather than go over the top with maudlin descriptions of his grief, the lack of any emotional language takes the poem in a direction opposite than expected. The setup of the first stanza is traditional: the winter reminds the narrator of the death of his friend. But then in the second stanza, instead of mourning, the narrator jokes that his friend is staying warm in his figurative overcoat of "earth and sea" (l. 10). It is somewhat of a grotesque image, when taken literally. Dick's lifeless body, buried in the ground, is indeed protected from the chill of winter. However, it is this very fact in which the poet takes the most comfort, because Dick hated the cold. The tone of the second stanza is ironic, and the reader consequently looks at the poem in a different light.

Just as Dick cheated winter out of the pleasure of making him cold, the poet similarly cheats death out of the pleasure of causing grief. Housman is not overtly shaken or upset over his friend's passing; rather, he commends Dick for being so "clever" (l. 8) as to weave his overcoat in the grave. The somewhat amused tone in the second

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