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because he can say it better

March 24, 2008

And because auntysocial inspired me so much with her beautiful Easter entry, which crowned the day…


Oh see how thick the goldcup flowers
Are lying in field and lane,
With dandelions to tell the hours
That never are told again.
Oh may I squire you round the meads
And pick you posies gay?
– ‘Twill do no harm to take my arm.
“You may, young man, you may.”

Ah, spring was sent for lass and lad,
‘Tis now the blood runs gold,
And man and maid had best be glad
Before the world is old.
What flowers to-day may flower to-morrow,
But never as good as new.
– Suppose I wound my arm right round –
“‘Tis true, young man, ’tis true.”

Some lads there are, ’tis shame to say,
That only court to thieve,
And once they bear the bloom away
‘Tis little enough they leave.
Then keep your heart for men like me
And safe from trustless chaps.
My love is true and all for you.
“Perhaps, young man, perhaps.”

Oh, look in my eyes, then, can you doubt?
– Why, ’tis a mile from town.
How green the grass is all about!
We might as well sit down.
– Ah, life, what is it but a flower?
Why must true lovers sigh?
Be kind, have pity, my own, my pretty, –
“Good-bye, young man, good-bye.”

Text by Alfred Edward Housman (1859-1936),
from A Shropshire Lad.

This is how I fell in love with Housman. Believe it or not, I saw the first stanza in a perfume ad in Seventeen. This was somewhere around 1970. Not long afterwards, my crazy, right-wing-fanatic yet excellent AHS English teacher, Mr. Palmer, told us that there were four great English writers of songs; Housman was one of them, I don’t currently remember the other three. I bought a complete Housman volume in college– a very slender book– and I’d never want to part with it, even now that I am old.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 25, 2008 11:01 PM

    thank you.
    A perfume ad! You never know what will turn into an educational tool.
    You inspire me to read more Housman.

  2. March 28, 2008 5:15 PM

    I remember Mr. Palmer from Park Junior High! He was an excellent teacher…but his politics, yikes. I remember asking my dad (in reference to Mr. Palmer): “Is it possible to respect someone and hate him at the same time?”

    • March 28, 2008 8:29 PM

      In one of the Anne of Green Gables books, they get a wonderful teacher in the one room schoolhouse in Avonlea, only he has this leeetle drinking problem; at one point, Marilla says something like “I’m actually glad he drinks, because if there weren’t something wrong with him we’d never get a teacher that good way out here.” I always kind of felt the same way about Mr. Palmer, although all things considered, I think I’d preferred him as an alcoholic.
      Did he really end up teaching at Park? When I had him, I think he taught college prep senior English exclusively. Somebody finally got fed up, maybe!

      • March 28, 2008 8:42 PM

        I could be misremembering. It probably was high school, but for some reason I associate him with Park. I remember having Mr. Rodgers for English as a senior, but maybe that was the last semester and I had Mr. Palmer the first semester? It’s kind of a jumble in my memory…
        What I do recall about Mr. Palmer is that, if I hinted in my essays about a right-wing leaning, no matter how poor/weak the writing may have been, I earned an A. OTOH, if I wrote a bang-up tight essay, but hinted at another way of thinking, I got less than an A. I actually experimented like that. Bizarre.

        • March 28, 2008 9:43 PM

          if I hinted in my essays about a right-wing leaning, no matter how poor/weak the writing may have been, I earned an A
          Oh yeah, that was definitely him. I think poor Tom Dupree got C’s all year long, because he had the courage of his convictions. I, on the other hand, quickly learned the art of speaking selectively, and did somewhat better… in the grade department, I mean, not the moral fiber department.

          • March 28, 2008 10:24 PM

            Oh, those lefty Duprees. LOL!
            If it makes you feel any better, I was more interested in getting A’s than in being honest. ;)

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