When smoke stood up from Ludlow

A Shropshire Lad

V When smoke stood up from Ludlow, C Q
V And mist blew off from Teme, C
V And blithe afield to ploughing
V Against the morning beam Q
V I strode beside my team, 5 C Q
V The blackbird in the coppice
Looked out to see me stride,
V And hearkened as I whistled
V The trampling team beside, Q
V And fluted and replied: 10
“Lie down, lie down, young yeoman;
V What use to rise and rise?
V Rise man a thousand mornings
V Yet down at last he lies,
And then the man is wise.” 15
V I heard the tune he sang me,
V And spied his yellow bill;
V I picked a stone and aimed it Q
V And threw it with a will:
Then the bird was still. 20
V Then my soul within me
V Took up the blackbird’s strain,
V And still beside the horses
V Along the dewy lane
V It sang the song again: 25
“Lie down, lie down, young yeoman; Q
The sun moves always west;
V The road one treads to labour
V Will 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 Word Glossary
3 blithe 1. Happy, cheerful, and carefree

2. Casually indifferent

6 coppice An area of densely growing small trees, especially one in which the trees are regularly cut back to encourage more growth.
8 hearkened Listened
11 yeoman 1. A member of a former class of English commoners who owned and cultivated their own land
2. A loyal, reliable, or diligent worker
22 strain 1. 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
1 The 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)
2 The 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
Meter Five-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
1 d1 As down the lanes to ploughing
1 d2 As blithe afield to labour
2 d1 I strode beside the team Against the morning beam
2 d2 Through dewy lanes astream Against the morning beam
3 d2 I strode beside the \ my / waggon
4 d2 Against the morning beam Through dewy lanes astream
5 d1 Against the morning beam And whistled to the team
5 d2 And whistled to the team
6 in] from
8 And perched \<flew>/ to hear me whistle And <when he heard me whistle> \ hearkened as I whistled /
9 trampling] jingling
10 fluted] whistled
12 use 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 /
17 And spied] Along
18 I spied \ picked / a stone and cast it \ swung it /
19 threw] flung / sent
21 Then my soul within me In my heart the echo
22 Kept up the echo long took up the blackbird’s strain
23 the] my
24 It sang the blackbird’s song Along the <dewy> \ steamy / lane
25 The dewy lanes along It sang the <song> \ tune / again
28 Who drives afield to labour And men \ The men / that rise to labour
29 lead one home] aye \ yet / come home aye lie down


Top ▲ Questions

Line Question
1 – 5 Consider 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?

4 The 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?
5 Is there a deliberate ambiguity in the two words “Teme” and “team” – are we meant to wonder whether he is beside the river?
9 What 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 -20 Why does the narrator, so carefree at the beginning, react so violently towards the blackbird and its song?
26 -30 Why does the narrator’s soul take up and accept the blackbird’s message at the end of the poem?
Whole Poem What 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?