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Creator / A. E. Housman

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A. E. Housman (1859 – 1936) was an English scholar and poet, best known for his poem cycle A Shropshire Lad, published in 1896. He also published a general poetry collection, Last Poems, in 1922, and following his death his brother compiled another collection, published as More Poems.

Housman's works are the source of many a Literary Allusion Title. His life is the subject of Tom Stoppard's play The Invention of Love.


His works provide examples of:

  • Acquired Poison Immunity: Poem LXII from A Shropshire Lad ("Terence, this is stupid stuff") retells the legend of King Mithridates, who over the course of his life ate small doses of poison in his food to slowly build an immunity to poisons and thus foil potential assassins. This story is used as an allegory; Housman's poem claims that the purpose of his poetry is to inoculate the reader against the evils of the world by describing them in palatable verse.
  • Cherry Blossoms: In Poem II from A Shropshire Lad ("Loveliest of trees the cherry now"), the speaker muses that life's too short not to go around looking at the cherry trees in bloom.
  • Determinator: "Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries", referring to the British Army in World War I. (Apparently the German press had been saying that the British soldiers, professionals rather than conscripts, should be considered mercenaries.) "What God abandoned, these defended" — you can't get much more Determinator than that.
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  • Lost in Translation: "Fragment from a Greek Tragedy" parodies translations of verse drama that put more importance on formal structure than on capturing the sense and emotion of the scene.
    Eriphyle: He splits my skull, not in a friendly way,
    Once more: he purposes to kill me dead.
  • Nostalgic Narrator: Poem XIII from A Shropshire Lad ("When I was one-and-twenty") is a subversion, with the speaker reflecting on his youthful impetuosity when he was 21 — from the grand old age of 22.
  • Romancing the Widow: The punchline of "Is My Team Ploughing": the speaker is giving 'cheer' to his dead friend's sweetheart.


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