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

In my own shire, if I was sad

A Shropshire Lad

In my own shire, if I was sad,
Homely comforters I had:Q
The earth, because my heart was sore,Q
Sorrowed for the son she bore;
And standing hills, long to remain,5
Shared their short-lived comrade's pain.
And bound for the same bourn as I,C
On every road I wandered by,
Trod beside me, close and dear,
The beautiful and death-struck year:10
Whether in the woodland brown
I heard the beechnut rustle down,
And saw the purple crocus pale
Flower about the autumn dale;
Or littering far the fields of May15
Lady-smocks a-bleaching lay,
And like a skylit water stoodC
The bluebells in the azured wood.
Yonder, lightening other loads,
The seasons range the country roads,20
But here in London streets I kenCQ
VNo such helpmates, only men;Q
And these are not in plight to bear,
If they would, another's care.
They have enough as 'tis: I see25
In many an eye that measures meQ
The mortal sickness of a mind
Too unhappy to be kind.
Undone with misery, all they can
Is to hate their fellow man;30
And till they drop they needs must stillQ
Look at you and wish you ill.
Key: V: Textual Variation. C: Commentary. Q: Question. Glossary

ASL XLI "In my own shire, if I was sad"

Top ▲ Glossary
Line  WordGlossary
2homelyHaving a simple, unpretentious, and warm-hearted manner
7bournA destination or boundary between one place or one thing and another
16Lady-smocksCommon name for cuckoo-flowers (Cardamine pratensis)
18azuredDeep blue, like the colour of a clear sky; also coloured blue on a coat of arms
20rangeTo move freely across, through, or back and forth within a particular area
21kenTo know somebody or something
23plightState of mind or mood (OED, used 1726)

Top ▲ Commentary
Line Commentary
Date: Oct - Dec 1895
7In Shakespeare's Hamlet (III, I, 81-2), death is described as, "The undiscovered country from whose bourn| No traveller returns."
17skylit: The Oxford English Dictionary cites this as the first use of the word
21This is another poem from the selection that contrasts the experience of London with that of Shropshire; in this case the contrast is emphasized by the two (unequal) stanzas.
MeterAlternate lines of eight and seven syllables, rhymed as couplets.

Top ▲ Variations
Line Text Textual variation
22helpmates] comrades

Top ▲ Questions
Line Question
2What is the effect of the shorter, even-numbered lines upon the mood of the poem?
3Which features of the natural world act as "homely comforters" in the first stanza? Why do you think these particular examples are chosen?
21How are these comforters contrasted in the second stanza?
22Does the phrase "only men" suggest a misanthropic personality on the part of the narrator? What other evidence is there for this?
26How do you interpret the phrase, "many an eye that measures me"?
31-32Why do you think the poet ends the poem with two entirely monosyllabic lines?