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

The winds out of the west land blow

A Shropshire Lad

     XXXVIII      Q
VThe winds out of the west land blowQ
VMy friends have breathed them there;
VWarm with the blood of lads I know
VComes east the sighing air.Q
VIt fanned their temples, filled their lungs,5Q
VScattered their forelocks free;
VMy friends made words of it with tongues
VThat talk no more to me.
VTheir voices, dying as they fly,
VThick on the wind are sown;10
VThe names of men blow soundless by,
VMy fellows' and my own.
VOh lads, at home I heard you plain,
But here your speech is still,
And down the sighing wind in vain15
You hollo from the hill.
The wind and I, we both were there,
VBut neither long abode;
Now through the friendless world we fare
VAnd sigh upon the road.20
Key: V: Textual Variation. C: Commentary. Q: Question. Glossary

ASL XXXVIII "The winds out of the west land blow"

Top ▲ Glossary
Line  WordGlossary
3forelockA lock of hair that grows or falls over the forehead (To "tug the forelock" is to acknowledge a superior)
16holloCall out
18abodeA short sword worn on a belt

Top ▲ Commentary
Line Commentary
Date: Oct - Dec 1895
meterFour line stanzas of alternating eight and six syllables, (iambic quatrameter / trimeter) rhymed alternately

Top ▲ Variations
Line Text Textual variation
1D1d1winds] wind<s> blow] blow<s>
2D1d1them] it
3D1d1And [?sent] And at my ear the speech it knows
4D1d1Fly silent \ [?sighing] [?swelling] / on the air I [?] on the air
5D1fanned] <stroked> temples] <faces>
6D1And from their <lips> \ mouths / flew free, \ Scattered their forelocks free, /
7D1My friends] And they
8D1talk] say
9D2dying as they fly,] <perished to a sigh>
10D2Loose on] <Along> \ Thick on /
Thick on is used in all editions before Nov 1922
10D2wind] \ gale gusts /
11D2blow soundless] go <silent> \ soundless /
12+D2Additional two lines: So far the east is from the west | The wind has lost the word
13D2Oh] My
18D2abode] could stay
20D1sigh] <meet>
20D2road] way

Top ▲ Questions
Line Question
1Why does the poet change from "wind" to "winds" from the draft to the final version?
4Why is the air described as "sighing"?
5What is the difference in mood between stroked their faces in the draft and fanned their temples in the final version?
Whole poemWhat evidence can you find from the poem as a whole that the poet links the winds with words and poetry itself?
Whole poemHow does this poem fit with the others that consider the physical and emotion distance away from 'Shropshire' for the narrator in this phase of the collection?