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

When smoke stood up from Ludlow

A Shropshire Lad

     VII      Q
VWhen smoke stood up from Ludlow,CQ
VAnd mist blew off from Teme,C
VAnd blithe afield to ploughing
VAgainst the morning beamQ
VI strode beside my team,5CQ
VThe blackbird in the coppice
Looked out to see me stride,
VAnd hearkened as I whistled
VThe trampling team beside,Q
VAnd fluted and replied:10
"Lie down, lie down, young yeoman;
VWhat use to rise and rise?
VRise man a thousand mornings
VYet down at last he lies,
And then the man is wise."15
VI heard the tune he sang me,
VAnd spied his yellow bill;
VI picked a stone and aimed itQ
VAnd threw it with a will:
Then the bird was still.20
VThen my soul within me
VTook up the blackbird's strain,
VAnd still beside the horses
VAlong the dewy lane
VIt sang the song again: 25
"Lie down, lie down, young yeoman;Q
The sun moves always west;
VThe road one treads to labour
VWill lead one home to rest,
And that will be the best."30
Key: V: Textual Variation. C: Commentary. Q: Question. Glossary

ASL VII "When smoke stood up from Ludlow"

Top ▲ Glossary
Line  WordGlossary
3blithe1. Happy, cheerful, and carefree
2. Casually indifferent
6coppiceAn area of densely growing small trees, especially one in which the trees are regularly cut back to encourage more growth.
8hearkened  Listened
11yeoman1. A member of a former class of English commoners who owned and cultivated their own land
2. A loyal, reliable, or diligent worker
22strain1. Song
Consider: "2. Mental or physical stress caused by an intense or extreme pressure or demand"

Top ▲ Commentary
Line Commentary
Date: 10 Aug - 30 Sept, 1895
1The market town of Ludlow, in South Shropshire, provides an important focus for the life of the surrounding rural area. Compare "The lads in their hundreds to Ludlow come in for the fair" (ASL XXIII - not in exam selection)
2The River Teme rises south of Newtown in Powys, flows east and south-east through Shropshire and the town of Ludlow before joining the River Severn just to the south of Worcester
5"team" refers to the team of shire horses which pull the plough - horses provided the motive power for agriculture well into the twentieth century. Compare "Is my team ploughing" (ASL XXVII) and the general associations of comradeship with his fellows, human and otherwise
MeterFive-line stanzas of alternately rhyming lines of seven then six syllables in an iambic metre: this is a common form in Housman. The two-syllable rhyme word in the odd numbered lines has an unstressed final syllable, known as a "feminine" ending. In this poem a fifth and additional line is added, rhymed as a couplet with the preceding line.

Top ▲ Variations
Line Text Textual variation
1d1As down the lanes to ploughing
1d2As blithe afield to labour
2d1I strode beside the team Against the morning beam
2d2Through dewy lanes astream Against the morning beam
3d2I strode beside the \ my / waggon
4d2Against the morning beam Through dewy lanes astream
5d1Against the morning beam And whistled to the team
5d2And whistled to the team
6in] from
8And perched \<flew>/ to hear me whistle And <when he heard me whistle> \ hearkened as I whistled /
9trampling] jingling
10fluted] whistled
12use to rise and] ails a man to
13<Rise he a thousand mornings> \ Rise man a thousand mornings / He'll rise a thousand mornings
14<At evening down he lies> \ Yet down at last he lies / But down at last \ eve / he lies
16<So the blackbird fluted> I heard the tune he <fluted> \ sang me /
17And spied] Along
18I spied \ picked / a stone and cast it \ swung it /
19threw] flung / sent
21Then my soul within me In my heart the echo
22Kept up the echo long took up the blackbird's strain
23the] my
24It sang the blackbird's song Along the <dewy> \ steamy / lane
25The dewy lanes along It sang the <song> \ tune / again
28Who drives afield to labour And men \ The men / that rise to labour
29lead one home] aye \ yet / come home aye lie down

Top ▲ Questions
Line Question
1 - 5Consider the following alternatives to the beginning of the first stanza, which can be reconstructed from the drafts:

As down the lanes to ploughing
I strode beside the team… (d1)
As blithe afield to labour
Through dewy lanes astream
I strode beside the my wagon… (d2)

Why do you think the poet decided upon the final version?

4The line "Against the morning beam" appears over and over in the drafts of the poem - why do you think it is such an important line to the poet?
5Is there a deliberate ambiguity in the two words "Teme" and "team" - are we meant to wonder whether he is beside the river?
9What effect does the replacement of "jingling" from the earlier draft with "trampling" in the final version have on the tone of the poem at this point?
18 -20Why does the narrator, so carefree at the beginning, react so violently towards the blackbird and its song?
26 -30Why does the narrator's soul take up and accept the blackbird's message at the end of the poem?
Whole PoemWhat is the effect of the fifth line in each stanza? Does it give a sense of completion, one of qualification of the previous idea or another effect?