A. E. Housman

A Shropshire Lad and Other Poems

“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.”

A. E. Housman (1859 – 1936) he was a superb Classics scholar and amateur poet. He taught at Cambridge University from 1911 until his death. His poetry was less well-known (and received less critical acclaim than his translations). His few published poems are included in this collection A Shropshire Land and Other Poems.

Housman’s poetry is often criticized as sentimental, it is grounded in sorrow. He attended Oxford only to fail after he fell “irreparably in love” with Moses Jackson, a heterosexual. Housman lived a life of un-returned love and a lifetime longing for the impossible. He published only two collections of poetry although further collections were published posthumously.

Though his unending and deeply buried emotional pain, Housman finds an ear for truth. “A Shropshire Lad,” his most famous poem is about longing to return to an innocent place before death inevitably claims us.

Leonard Cohen’s late-in-life collection of poetry and musings on longing echoes the longing of Housman. The English countryside seems a nurturing soil of poetry, read poet John Clare’s celebration of the land and sadness at it’s irreversible change.