A.E.Housman

1859-1936

'Goodnight. Ensured release
Imperishable peace:
Have these for yours'

 

Alfred Edward Housman's ashes are buried in St. Lawrence's Church, Ludlow, Shropshire, England.  (See map...ref no. 21)
 

Plaque on Church Wall.
Photograph by Peter Burden

A cherry tree stump marks the spot and a plaque was placed on the north wall of the church. A new cherry tree has subsequently been planted by the Housman Society to the west of the church. The second poem of A Shropshire Lad famously describes a cherry tree: 'Loveliest of trees, the cherry now/Is hung with bloom along the bough,'.

Housman was educated at Bromsgrove School - where he won a scholarship to St. John's College Oxford. Housman was a natural academic but mysteriously failed his finals and left Oxford without a degree. From 1882 he worked for ten years in Her Majesty's Patent Office, pursuing his interest in Latin and Greek in his spare time. In 1892 he was appointed Professor of Latin at University College, London and later took up the same position at Cambridge University in 1911.

As a poet, Housman is chiefly remembered for the wistful and metrical poems of A Shropshire Lad (1896) which he originally published at his own expense. Housman was not a native of Shropshire but originally came from Worcestershire. However, Shropshire became an imaginary landscape for him. The poems present a lyrical and nostalgic view of English country life but are also underpinned by a deep sense of foreboding.

While a student at Oxford University Housman fell in love with fellow undergraduate Moses Jackson. When Jackson later emigrated to India and married, Housman was heartbroken. Jackson may well have been the inspiration behind many of the poems that made up A Shropshire Lad. The collection proved popular with both the critics and the general public and many of the soldiers carried a copy with them to the trenches.

A further collection, entitled Last Poems was published in 1922. After Housman's death, his brother Laurence allowed the publication of More Poems.

Housman declined honours including the Order of Merit. He died in Cambridge on 30th April 1936. His epitaph is taken from his poem Parta Quies.

In his sonnet addressed to Housman, W.H. Auden described him as one who: 'Kept tears like dirty postcards in a drawer'.

Into my heart an air that kills
   From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
   What spires, what farms are those?
 
That is the land of lost content,
   I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
   And cannot come again.

From A Shropshire Lad


A.E. Housman

Read more poems by Housman

The Housman Society

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