Twice a week the winter thorough

A Shropshire Lad

Twice a week the winter thorough
V Here stood I to keep the goal: Q
V Football then was fighting sorrow
For the young man’s soul. Q
Now in Maytime to the wicket 5
Out I march with bat and pad:
V See the son of grief at cricket C
Trying to be glad. Q
V Try I will; no harm in trying: C Q
Wonder ’tis how little mirth 10 Q
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 Word Glossary
1 thorough Archaic 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.
9 The three monosyllabic words at the beginning of the line, followed by the caesura, give a sense of determination as the third stanza begins
Metre Four 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
2 d1 I 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 /
2 d2 <Mud or frost, > \ Here in field \ I stood \ stood I / to keep / / I kept the goal:
3 then was fighting] <then was warring>> \ made the fight with /
7 son of grief] son<s> of <men> man \ <Eve> grief
9 Try I will] <Try, my lads>


Top ▲ Questions

Line Question
2 In 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?
4 What effect does the shorter final line of each stanza have on the mood of the poem
8 In what ways do football and cricket act to reduce the misery of life felt by the narrator?
9 What is the effect of changing “Try, my lads” in the draft of the poem to “Try I will” in the final version?
10-12 Do you find the ending of the poem has a positive or negative tone and message?