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

Is my team ploughing

A Shropshire Lad

V"Is my team ploughing,CQ
That I was used to drive
And hear the harness jingle
When I was man alive?"
Ay, the horses trample,5
The harness jingles now;
No change though you lie under
The land you used to plough.
"Is football playing
VAlong the river shore,10
With lads to chase the leather,C
Now I stand up no more?"
Ay, the ball is flying,
The lads play heart and soul;
The goal stands up, the keeper15
Stands up to keep the goal.
V"Is my girl happy,
VThat I thought hard to leave,
VAnd has she tired of weepingQ
VAs she lies down at eve?"20
VAy, she lies down lightly,Q
VShe lies not down to weep:
Your girl is well contented.
VBe still, my lad, and sleep.
"Is my friend hearty,25
VNow I am thin and pine,
VAnd has he found to sleep in
A better bed than mine?"
VYes, lad, I lie easy,Q
VI lie as lads would choose;30
I cheer a dead man's sweetheart,Q
Never ask me whose.
Key: V: Textual Variation. C: Commentary. Q: Question. Glossary

ASL XXVII "Is my team ploughing"

Top ▲ Glossary
Line  WordGlossary
26pineAs an intransitive verb:
1. To long for somebody or something, especially somebody or something unattainable
2. To become weak and lose vitality as a result of grief or longing
But consider that pine is one wood traditionally used in the manufacture of coffins

Top ▲ Commentary
Line Commentary
Date: May - July 1895 (1st draft), 10 Aug - 30 Sept 1895 (2nd draft)
11"leather" ie the football
1, 9, 17, 25Note that the voice of the dead lover begins each question in the same way; the first lines of these stanzas are irregular, both in terms of the number of syllables and the rhythm
meterFour line stanzas, mainly of six syllables (iambic trimeter), although the first lines of a number of stanzas are irregular, both in terms of the number of syllables and the rhythm

Top ▲ Variations
Line Text Textual variation
TitleD1No title
1D1my] \ <the> /
10D2Along] <Beside> \ <Against> /
17D1girl happy] <love contented>
18D1thought hard] <was sad>
19D1And lies she down \ is her heart / contented And do her tears fall fewer
19D2d1<And has she ceased from crying> \ And [ ? ] >/
19D2d2 <And turns she soon to slumber> \ And does she weep \ cry / no longer
19D2d3\ And has she <ceased her crying> \ tired of weeping /
20D1<Late \ <Wept> / in the fading eve?> <At to-shut of the eve?>
20D1d2<At to fall of the eve>
20D2d2<When> \ As / she lies down at eve?
21D2Ay, <<her> heart [ ? ] \ <tears are fewer> / \ she lies down lightly, / grief’s forgotten,>
22D1<Be sure> <s> She does not \ think to / weep She turns no more \ seldom thinks / to weep; \ She’s long left off to weep /
22D2<She lies not down to weep;> \ She lies not down to weep;/ <She does not wake to weep> \ She [?does not] wake to weep /
24D1Be] Lie
26D1<To see the daylight shine> Now I am thin and pine
27D1And has] <[H]as> \ [A]nd / has
30D1lie] sleep

Top ▲ Questions
Line Question
1, 9, 17, 25What is the effect of the fact that the first lines of these stanzas are irregular, both in terms of the number of syllables and the rhythm?
19-22Using the notes on the textual variations of these lines, reconstruct the various versions and consider the merits of each. In what ways is the final version superior?
21What do you understand by the poet's use of the word "lightly"?
29Why does this final reply begin with a different word from all the others? How is the hesitancy in his answer demonstrated through the structure of the stanza
29-30In both these lines, the poet changes "sleep" in the drafts to "lie" in the final version. What is the effect of a) the word change and b) the repetition?
32Explore the humour of this poem.