A. E. Housman’s “To an Athlete Dying Young,” also known as Lyric XIX in A Shropshire Lad, holds as its main theme the premature death of a young athlete as told from the point of view of a friend serving as pall bearer. The poem reveals the concept that those dying at the peak of their glory or youth are really quite lucky. The first few readings of “To an Athlete Dying Young” provides the reader with an understanding of Housman’s view of death. Additional readings reveal Housman’s attempt to convey the classical idea that youth, beauty, and glory can be preserved only in death.
A line-by-line analysis helps to determine the purpose of the poem. The first stanza of the poem tells of the athlete’s triumph and his glory filled parade through the town in which the crowd loves and cheers for him. As Bobby Joe Leggett defines at this point, the athlete is “carried of the shoulders of his friends after a winning race” (54). In Housman’s words: The time you won your town the race We chaired you through the market place; Man and boy stood cheering by, And home we brought you shoulder-high. (Housman 967).
Stanza two describes a much more somber procession. The athlete is being carried to his grave. In Leggett’s opinion, “The parallels between this procession and the former triumph are carefully drawn” (54). The reader should see that Housman makes another reference to “shoulders” as an allusion to connect the first … … middle of paper … … oem because the athlete lived a short choppy life, yet, be it for only a moment, he lived elaborately. Works Cited Bache, William. “Housman’s To an Athlete Dying Young. ” The Explicator, 1951. 185) Henry, Nat. “Housman’s To an Athlete Dying Young. ” The Explicator, 1954. (188-189) Housman, A. E.. “To an Athlete Dying Young. ” The Bedford Introduction To Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford Books Of St. Martin’s Press, 1993. (967) Leggett, Bobby Joe. Land of Lost Content. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1970. Leggett, Bobby Joe. The Poetic Art of A. E. Housman. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978. Ricks, Christopher ed.. A. E. Housman. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1968. John S. Ward