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

Twice a week the winter thorough

A Shropshire Lad

Twice a week the winter thorough
VHere stood I to keep the goal:Q
VFootball then was fighting sorrow
For the young man's soul.Q
Now in Maytime to the wicket5
Out I march with bat and pad:
VSee the son of grief at cricketC
Trying to be glad.Q
VTry I will; no harm in trying:CQ
Wonder 'tis how little mirth10Q
Keeps the bones of man from lying
On the bed of earth.
Key: V: Textual Variation. C: Commentary. Q: Question. Glossary

ASL XVII "Twice a week the winter thorough"

Top ▲ Glossary
Line  WordGlossary
1thoroughArchaic form of 'through'

Top ▲ Commentary
Line Commentary
Date: May - July 1895
In a letter dated 15 February 1905, Housman stated his objection to the inclusion of this poem in an anthology, The Athlete's Garland (1905), explaining that it, "merely mentions football and cricket as palliations of misery" and thus contains, "mere casual allusions to athletics" Letters, 77
7"son of grief" suggests two biblical references, Genesis 35:18: "she (Rachel) called his name Ben-oni (That is, "son of my grief") and Isaiah 53: 3: "a man of sorrows". In the first reference, Rachel dies giving birth to her son, later named Benjamin.
9The three monosyllabic words at the beginning of the line, followed by the caesura, give a sense of determination as the third stanza begins
MetreFour line stanzas, with alternating rhymes. The first and third lines have eight syllables (iambic quatrameter) but the other lines are shorter, seven and then five syllables.

Top ▲ Variations
Line Text Textual variation
2d1I bestrode \ besieged / the guarded \ threatened / \ trampled / goal: I bestrode the trampled goal \ Wet or dry, \ Afternoons / I kept the goal / \ I stood guardian at \ guard before / the goal /
2d2<Mud or frost, > \ Here in field \ I stood \ stood I / to keep / / I kept the goal:
3then was fighting] <then was warring>> \ made the fight with /
7son of grief] son<s> of <men> man \ <Eve> grief
9Try I will] <Try, my lads>

Top ▲ Questions
Line Question
2In the drafts, the goal is described as 'guarded', 'threatened' and trampled' and the narrator 'bestrode', 'besieged', then 'stood guardian' 'at guard'. Yet in the final version he simply 'kept the goal' What is the effect of removing these earlier words?
4What effect does the shorter final line of each stanza have on the mood of the poem
8In what ways do football and cricket act to reduce the misery of life felt by the narrator?
9What is the effect of changing "Try, my lads" in the draft of the poem to "Try I will" in the final version?
10-12Do you find the ending of the poem has a positive or negative tone and message?