Essay on The Poetry of A. E. Housman

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The Poetry of A. E. Housman

Housman was born in Burton-On-Trent, England, in 1865, just as the US Civil War was ending. As a young child, he was disturbed by the news of slaughter from the former British colonies, and was affected deeply. This turned him into a brooding, introverted teenager and a misanthropic, pessimistic adult. This outlook on life shows clearly in his poetry. Housman believed that people were generally evil, and that life conspired against mankind. This is evident not only in his poetry, but also in his short stories. For example, his story, "The Child of Lancashire," published in 1893 in The London Gazette, is about an child who travels to London, where his parents die, and he becomes a street urchin. There are
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Housman seems to have had trouble reconciling conventional Christianity with his homosexuality and his deep clinical depression. In "Apologia pro Poemate Meo" he states: "In heaven-high musings and many Far off in the wayward night sky, I would think that the love I bear you Would make you unable to die [death again] Would God in his church in heaven Forgive us our sins of the day, That boy and man together Might join in the night and the way." I think that the sense of hopelessness and homosexual longing is unmistakable. However, these themes went entirely over the heads of the people of Housman's day, in the early 1900s. The best known collection of Housman's poetry is A Shropshire Lad, published in 1925, followed shortly by More Poems, 1927, and Even More Poems, 1928. Unsurprisingly, most collections have the same sense and style. They could easily be one collection, in terms of stylistic content. All show a sense of the fragility of life, the perversity of existence, and a thinly veiled homosexual longing, in spite of the fact that many of the poems apparently (but subliminally?) speak of young women. It is clear from

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