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Mon 28th
May 2018
The Housman Society
Appreciating the Life and Works of Alfred Edward Housman

Bredon Hill

A Shropshire Lad

     XXI      Q
VBredon HillC
VIn summertime on BredonC
The bells they sound so clear;
VRound both the shires they ring themC
In steeples far and near,
A happy noise to hear.5Q
Here of a Sunday morning
My love and I would lie,,
VAnd see the coloured counties,
VAnd hear the larks so high
VAbout us in the sky.10
The bells would ring to call her
In valleys miles away:
"Come all to church, good people;
Good people, come and pray."
But here my love would stay.15
VAnd I would turn and answerQ
Among the springing thyme,
V"Oh, peal upon our wedding,Q
And we will hear the chime,
And come to church in time."20
VBut when the snows at ChristmasQ
VOn Bredon top were strown,
My love rose up so early
And stole out unbeknown
And went to church alone.25
VThey tolled the one bell only,
VGroom there was none to see,Q
The mourners followed after,
And so to church went she,
And would not wait for me.30
VThe bells they sound on Bredon
VAnd still the steeples hum.
"Come all to church, good people," -Q
VOh, noisy bells, be dumb;
I hear you, I will come.35
* Pronounced 'Breedon'
Key: V: Textual Variation. C: Commentary. Q: Question. Glossary

ASL XXI "Bredon Hill"

Top ▲ Glossary
Line  WordGlossary
9larkA small songbird with brownish plumage, found worldwide and noted for its song and its soaring flight. Sometimes also called skylark. Consider: the word also has a sense of carefree games, from the naval practice of "skylarking", when young sailors were encouraged to climb high in the rigging of sailing ships.
17thymeA small low shrub of the mint family with narrow leaves yielding thyme and white, pink, or red flowers. Consider the suggestion of "time", particularly as it passes the young lovers by.
18pealRinging a church bell by starting and finishing with the open end upwards. Traditionally used to mark a celebration, particularly a wedding
26tolledRinging a bell from side to side with the open end downwards, rather than "pealing" the bell (see above). Bells are tolled from churches to call to worship and to mark a funeral.

Top ▲ Commentary
Line Commentary
Date: July 1891 (1st draft) Feb 1893 (2nd draft)
TitleAEH added the footnote (Pronounced 'Breedon') in the text and the poem has been so printed from the first edition.
1Bredon hill is in Worcestershire, not Shropshire; it is just under 300m high and enjoys spectacular and extensive views of the surrounding countryside. In several pieces of correspondence, cited by Burnett (p.335) and others, Housman explains that the poem was written before the Shropshire setting of the collection had been conceived.
3"both the shires" being Worcestershire and Gloucestershire.
meterFive line stanzas, with alternating rhymes and alternately seven and six syllables for the first four and a final fifth line also of six syllables. This final line of each stanza is rhymed as a couplet with the fourth line, which in turn picks up the rhyme of the second. Lines one and three have 'feminine' endings

Top ▲ Variations
Line Text Textual variation
TitleD1No title
1D1<On Bredon [?] Sundays> \ In summertime on Bredon/
3D1Round both] <In> \ Round / all
3D2Round \ <Through> / <all> \ both /
8D1And see the land of England And see the sunny counties
8D1And see the <sunny> \ <pleasant> <checkered> <patterned> \ coloured // counties
9D1And [ ? ] high, And hear the larks so high
10D1My love alone and I About us in the sky
16D1And <she and> I would \ turn and / answer, tell them
18D1"Oh, peal] "<Chime> Ring \ well /
18D2"O Ring] \ peal /
21D1But on a winter’s morning But when the snows on Bredon
21D2But when the snows on Bredon \ at Christmas /
22D1When all the roads were stone, At Christmastide were strewn
22D2At Christmastide \ On Bredon top / were strown
26D1d2There \ All / in the tower hung silent <The wedding peals \ <chimes> / were silent>
26D1d2They <rang> \ tolled / but one bell only <They> There tolled but one bell only
26d2They tolled <but> \ the / one bell only
27D1d1The chime I thought would be; <That will not ever be;>
27D1d2For more there might not be:
27D2<For more there might not be;> \ <And silent hung the three> / <Over the winter lea> \ <No wedding chimes had we>/ \ <And few came out to see> / \ And groom was none to see> / \ Groom there was none to see/
31D1sound on Bredon,] ring <so pleasant>
32D1still] <then>
34d1<Oh [ ? ] calling:> <O noisy bells, be dumb;> \ Good people, all and some”/

Top ▲ Questions
Line Question
5Consider the effect of the fifth line of each stanza - does it give a sense of completeness, qualification or something else. What does it do to the tone of the lines?
8The reference to the "coloured counties" is possibly the most famous of Housman's images. Consider the alternative lines from the drafts:
And see the land of England
And see the sunny counties
and the alternatives pleasant, checkered and patterned to the eventual coloured. Why is the final choice such an evocative one?
16Compare the draft version:
And she and I would tell them
with the final version:
And I would turn and answer
What is the difference in effect from one to the other?
18Why does the poet prefer "peal" to "chime" or "ring" for the specific sound of the bells?
21-22Consider the following versions of these lines, which can be reconstructed from the drafts:
a. But on a winter's morning
When all the roads were stone,

b. But when the snows on Bredon
At Christmastide were strewn

c. But when the snows on Bredon
At Christmastide were strown

d. But when the snows at Christmas
On Bredon top were strown

What are the merits of each and how is the final version, But when the snows at Christmas | On Bredon top were strown, superior?
27Consider what the following versions of the line can tell us about the creative process as shown through the drafts:
a. For more there might not be; b. And silent hung the three c. Over the winter lea d. No wedding chimes had we e. And few came out to see. f. And groom was none to see g. Groom there was none to see
33There is an abrupt break at the end of this line, the third of the final stanza that seemed to begin as an echo of the first stanza. Explore the effect that the poet is trying to achieve.
Whole poemThis is one of a number of poems that consider the briefness of relationships? Is there a sense of loyalty towards the deceased lover in this poem? Contrast this with the next poem in the selection.