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Sep 2014
The Housman Society
Appreciating the Life and Works of Alfred Edward Housman
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Westward on the high-hilled plains

A Shropshire Lad

     LV      
VWestward on the high-hilled plainsC
Where for me the world began,
VStill, I think, in newer veins
VFrets the changeless blood of man.Q
 
VNow that other lads than I5
Strip to bathe on Severn shore,
VThey, no help, for all they try,
VTread the mill I trod before.Q
 
VThere, when hueless is the west
VAnd the darkness hushes wide,10
VWhere the lad lies down to restQ
VStands the troubled dream beside.
 
VThere, on thoughts that once were mine,
Day looks down the eastern steep,
And the youth at morning shine15
Makes the vow he will not keep.Q
 
Key: V: Textual Variation. C: Commentary. Q: Question. Glossary


ASL LV "Westward on the high-hilled plains"

Top ▲ Glossary
Line  WordGlossary
8millThe treadmill, part of the "hard-labour" used as punishment in prison
9huelessColourless


Top ▲ Commentary
Line Commentary
Date: Jan 1895 (fragment), May-July 1895 (draft)
1Westward: once again the emotional focus is to the west
meterFour line stanzas of seven syllables, rhymed alternately


Top ▲ Variations
Line Text Textual variation
1Dhigh-hilled] <hills and>
3DI think,] \ be sure, <for sure>, /
4Dchangeless] <ancient>
5Dlads] <men>
7D<Other men,> \ They, I think, / for all they try, They<,> must needs, \ no help / for all they try <,>
8Dmill] <road<s>> \ round /
9Dd1<There when down the west>
9Dd2There, when ashen is the west
10Ddarkness hushes] twilight \ darkness / hushes silence settles
11Dd1Still above the sleeping breast
11Dd2<Sure as \ <Still where> / lads lie down to rest> Where the lad lies down to rest>
12Dd1Stands] Bends
13Dd1There to clearer \ later / eyes than mine
13Dd2There to eyes that wake like mine \ clearer than / There on thoughts that once were mine


Top ▲ Questions
Line Question
4Why do you think the poet preferred "changeless" to "ancient"? What does this alteration do to the meaning of the poem?
8What does this line have to say about the human life?
9What effect does the change from "ashen" to "hueless" have?
11Compare the draft versions of this line:
a. Still above the sleeping breast

b. Sure as lads lie down to rest

c. Where the lad lies down to rest

With the final version: Where the lad lies down to rest. What are the merits of each?
16How do you interpret the final line? What is the vow?