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A. E. Housman (1859 – 1936)


Usually known as A E Housman, was an English poet and classical scholar, now best known for his cycle of poems A Shropshire Lad.
A. E. Housman
The average man, if he meddles with criticism at all, is a conservative critic. His opinions are determined not by his reason -- 'the bulk of mankind' says Swift 'is as well qualified for flying as for thinking' -- but by his passions; and the faintest of all human passions is the love of truth. He believes that the text of ancient authors is generally sound, not because he has acquainted himself with the elements of the problem, but because he would feel uncomfortable if he did not believe it; just as he believes, on the same cogent evidence, that he is a fine fellow, and that he will rise again from the dead.
Housman quotes
The house of delusions is cheap to build, but draughty to live in, and ready at any instant to fall.
Housman
They carry back bright to the coiner the mintage of man,
The lads that will die in their glory and never be old.




Housman A. E. quotes
We now to peace and darkness
And earth and thee restore
Thy creature that thou madest
And wilt cast forth no more.
Housman A. E.
Could man be drunk for ever
With liquor, love, or fights,
Lief should I rouse at mornings
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.
A. E. Housman quotes
And, what is worse, the reader often shares the writer's prejudices, and is far too well pleased with his conclusions to examine either his premises or his reasoning. Stand on a barrel in the streets of Bagdad, and say in a loud voice, 'Twice two is four, and ginger is hot in the mouth, therefore Mohammed is the prophet of God', and your logic will probably escape criticism; or, if anyone should by chance criticise it, you could easily silence him by calling him a Christian dog.
A. E. Housman
But from my grave across my brow
Plays no wind of healing now,
And fire and ice within me fight
Beneath the suffocating night.
Housman A. E. quotes
Experience has taught me, when I am shaving of a morning, to keep watch over my thoughts, because, if a line of poetry strays into my memory, my skin bristles so that the razor ceases to act...The seat of this sensation is the pit of the stomach. Houseman's test for great poetry.
Housman
They say my verse is sad: no wonder.
Its narrow measure spans
Rue for eternity, and sorrow
Not mine, but man's.

This is for all ill-treated fellows
Unborn and unbegot,
For them to read when they're in trouble
And I am not.
Housman A. E.
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.
A. E. Housman
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears.




A. E. Housman quotes
There, by the starlit fences,
The wanderer halts and hears
My soul that lingers sighing
About the glimmering weirs.
A. E. Housman
The chestnut casts his flambeaux, and the flowers
Stream from the hawthorn on the wind away,
The doors clap to, the pane is blind with showers.
Pass me the can, lad; thereís an end of May.
Housman quotes
Who made the world I cannot tell;
'Tis made, and here am I in hell.
My hand, though now my knuckles bleed,
I never soiled with such a deed.
Housman A. E.
Three minutes' thought would suffice to find this out; but thought is irksome and three minutes is a long time.
Housman A. E. quotes
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.
A. E. Housman
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.
A. E. Housman quotes
Clay lies still, but blood's a rover;
Breath's a ware that will not keep.
Up, lad: when the journey's over
There'll be time enough to sleep.
A. E. Housman
And how am I to face the odds
Of manís bedevilment and Godís?
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.
Housman A. E.
Far in a western brookland
That bred me long ago
The poplars stand and tremble
By pools I used to know.


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