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

On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble

A Shropshire Lad

On Wenlock Edge the wood's in troubleCQ
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;CQ
VThe gale, it plies the saplings double,Q
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.
V'Twould blow like this through holt and hanger5
When Uricon the city stood:C
V'Tis the old wind in the old anger,Q
VBut then it threshed another wood.
VThen, 'twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:10
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.
There, like the wind through woods in riot,
Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:15
Then 'twas the Roman, now 'tis I.
VThe gale, it plies the saplings double,
It blows so hard, 'twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
Are ashes under Uricon.20Q
Key: V: Textual Variation. C: Commentary. Q: Question. Glossary

ASL XXXI "On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble"

Top ▲ Glossary
Line  WordGlossary
3saplingsSmall trees
5holt1. A wood or copse (archaic)
5hanger1. A small area of woodland, clinging to the side of a hill.
2. A short sword worn on a belt
5yeoman1. A loyal, reliable, or diligent worker
2. A member of a former class of English commoners who owned and cultivated their own land

Top ▲ Commentary
Line Commentary
Date: Oct - Dec 1895
1Wenlock Edge: a wooded escarpment in Shropshire, running SW from Much Wenlock to Craven Arms
2Wrekin: a prominent hill, just over 300m, which dominates the countryside to the north of Much Wenlock and SE of Shrewsbury
6Uricon: Viriconium (now Wroxeter); in the First Century AD, this was the fourth largest town in Roman Britain, with a legionary fortress and civilian settlement.
meterFour line stanzas of alternately nine and eight syllables, rhymed alternately; the additional syllable in the odd-numbered lines produces a feminine ending to those lines

Top ▲ Variations
Line Text Textual variation
3DThe gale] <It blows> \ The wind /
5Dthrough holt] <on hill>
7D<’Twas> \ ’Tis / the <same> \ old / wind \ <gale> / in the <same> \ old / anger
8Dthreshed] <wrecked>
9DThen] <Once>
17DThe gale] <It blows> \ The wind /

Top ▲ Questions
Line Question
1Explore the effect of the additional syllable in the odd-numbered lines; how does it change the mood of those lines?
2Why do you think the poet uses personification to describe the woods and hills?
3What effect does substituting "gale" for "wind" have in this line?
7What effect does substituting "old" for "same" have in this line?
20The poem deals with the passage of time; do you find its final message more positive or negative?