A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

English poet, and Latin scholar, born on March 26, 1859 in Fockbury, Worcestershire, England. He preferred so much his mother to his father, a solicitor, that his mother’s death on his 12th birthday was a hard blow. It might be a cause of the pessimism in his poetry. Educated at St John’s College, Oxford, where he was oppressed by the dawning of homosexual desires. He had a passionate attachment to a fellow student and athletic young man, Moses Jackson. Although he did not reciprocate Housman’s love and simply became a friend, Jackson became an important inspiration of his later verse. Having failed to pass his final examination at Oxford, Housman worked as a clerk in the Patent Office in London from 1882 to 1892. During that time he studied Latin texts in the British Museum reading room to write articles for journals. In 1892 he was appointed a professor of Latin at University College, London.

In 1896 he published A Shropshire Lad, a series of 63 short verses, based on ballad-forms, and set in a half-imaginary Shropshire. The volume sold very slowly at first, but it won wide popularity at last. It has the simplicity of ballad-like stanzas and theme, and the tone of folk songs. A. B. Friedman says: ‘Of modern poets Housman is decidedly the most thoroughly steeped in folk poetry. Those who have detected and tabulated his sources agree that “the influence of the Scottish border ballad is stronger and more pervasive than any other.” The debt to folksong in all its varieties is even greater than this statement suggests, for what Housman most admired in Shakespeare’s songs, Scott’s lyrics, and the shorter poems of Heine, his other principal tributaries, was their folksong qualities’ [The Ballad Revival: Studies in the Influence of Popular on Sophisticated Poetry (The U of Chicago, 1961) 335-36].

In 1911 he became a professor of Latin at Cambridge. Died on 30 April 1936. (H. N.)

1. Atys
2. Bredon Hill
3. The Carpenter's Son
4. The Culprit
5. The Deserter
6. Farewell to Barn and Stack and Tree
7. Grenadier
8. Is My Team Ploughing?
9. Lancer
10. The Merry Guide
11. New Year's Eve
12. Oh See How Thick the Goldcup Flowers
13. Oh who is that young sinner?
14. On Moonlit Heath
15. The True Lover