(Poem #33) A Shropshire Lad, XXXVI
White in the moon the long road lies, The moon stands blank above; White in the moon the long road lies That leads me from my love. Still hangs the hedge without a gust, Still, still the shadows stay: My feet upon the moonlit dust Pursue the ceaseless way. The world is round, so travellers tell, And straight though reach the track, Trudge on, trudge on, 'twill all be well, The way will guide one back. But ere the circle homeward hies Far, far must it remove: White in the moon the long road lies That leads me from my love.
A brief (and slightly dated) biographical note, from Louis Untermeyer: "A. E. Housman was born in1859, and, after a classical education, he was, for ten years, Higher Division Clerk in Her Majesty's Patent Office. Later in life, he became a teacher. Housman published only one volume of original verse, but that volume (A Shropshire Lad) is known wherever modern English poetry is read.Originally published in 1896, when Housman was almost 37, it is evident that many of these lyrics were written when the poet was much younger. Echoing the frank pessimism of Hardy and the harder cynicism of Heine, Housman struck a lighter and more buoyant note. Underneath his dark ironies, there is a rustic humor that has many subtle variations. From a melodic standpoint, A Shropshire Lad is a collection of exquisite, haunting and almost perfect songs. Housman has been a professor of Latin since 1892 and, besides his immortal set of lyrics, has edited Juvenal and the books of Manlius. " Housman died in 1936. I've loved this poem ever since I first read it in Susan Cooper's (excellent) fantasy sequence 'The Dark is Rising'. I find the central image especially beautiful and poignant. Call me an unabashed romantic if you will :-). For an interesting contrast, compare this poem with Tolkien's 'The Road Goes Ever On' (Minstrels, Poem #4). thomas.