Talk:A. E. Housman

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Included poetry[edit]

An anon. contributor included the poem "To an Athlete Dying Young", and I just fixed the misformatting due to lack of Wiki experience. However, it seems a good example of the themes in Housman's poetry so I kept it. (Copyright OK I suppose?) — Dizzley (Peter H) 06:53, 3 Feb 2005 (UTC) ' '

' '' ''' —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:42, 30 May 2009 (UTC)


the old wikiquote link worked, but the new one done through a template does not link to the correct article. i am reverting to the older version until this kink can be worked out. the new version is more aesthetically pleasing, but not functional.--Alhutch 09:05, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

problem solved. had to create a redirect in wikiquote from Alfred Edward Housman to A. E. Housman. the wikiquote template is back in the article and all set now.--Alhutch 09:17, 1 December 2005 (UTC)


In encyclopedias, a person's mother and father should be listed if possible.


This article does not match many other articles in regards to format. Compare this article to the similar poet Alfred Tennyson and you will see huge differences in the article format. Please standardize articles with the rest of wikipedia.

Should article be titled "A.E. Housman"?[edit]

He seems to be generally known as A.E. Housman. My Penguin copy of his collected works refers to him nowhere by his full name (indeed I was unaware what it was). I would perhaps rename the article and put the full name as redirect. A comparable is A.A. Milne. RandomProcess 13:56, 15 December 2005 (UTC)

I've revisited this issue below, @ Full name in title. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 04:48, 29 May 2010 (UTC)

70 years since he died[edit]

20 April 2006 is the 70th annivesary of his death, so presumably his works become public domain on 1 Jan 2007? RandomProcess 11:36, 16 December 2005 (UTC)

homosexual reference?[edit]

The article seems to assume common knowledge in the fact of homosexuality. However, it does not explain how or why this is known about A.E. Housman. A line or two explaining this would be a welcome addition.

Do we need citations for common knowledge? If so, use Britannica: -- 21:06, 29 August 2006 (UTC)
To very belately answer the question: Yes, we do need citations. One is not born knowing that Housman was homosexual; one must have read it somewhere, or been told by someone who read it somewhere, or .... We cannot pander in mere rumours, but if something has been reported in a reputable publication, we can mention it. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 21:47, 10 August 2010 (UTC)

Parody of Housman[edit]

I know of a second parody of Housman, one which has been quoted in several books of quotations, but cannot recall the author. As it follows both Housman's pre-occupations (or the popular belief of them) and style I feel it might be included; all is needed is the author. The piece (as memory serves) goes;

What? Still alive at twenty two?
A fine, upstanding chap like you?
Why, if your throat is hard to slit,
Then slit your girls, and hang for it!

I should comment that AE is my favourite poet.LessHeard vanU 20:50, 31 March 2006 (UTC)

What, still alive at twenty-two,
A clean upstanding chap like you?
Sure, if your throat 'tis hard to slit,
Slit your girl's, and swing for it.
Like enough, you won't be glad,
When they come to hang you, lad:
But bacon's not the only thing
That's cured by hanging from a string.
So, when the spilt ink of the night
Spreads o'er the blotting pad of light,
Lads whose job is still to do
Shall whet their knives, and think of you.

Hugh Kingsmill

Brilliant! So close to Housman and yet so far. --Slashme 07:02, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

One of my mentors in academia is a Housman nut, and after I recited these four lines of Dorothy Parker (whom he also loves) to him, he said in disgust that they are satire on Housman:

I never see that prettiest thing
A cherry bough gone white with spring
But what I think, how gay 'twould be
To hang me from a flowering tree

Thought you all might like that, too.Delvebelow (talk) 21:13, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

It's very amusing, but even funnier that your mentor didn't approve... Eebahgum (talk) 12:37, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Another delight is Wendy Cope's

"I think I am in love with A.E. Housman,
Which puts me in a worse-than-usual-fix.
No woman ever stood a chance with Housman,

And he’s been dead since 1936."

--Browne-Windsor (talk) 18:48, 6 March 2008 (UTC)

That young sinner[edit]

What on earth is Housman on about here:

Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?
And what has he been after that they groan and shake their fists?
And wherefore is he wearing such a conscience-stricken air?
Oh they're taking him to prison for the colour of his hair.
'Tis a shame to human nature, such a head of hair as his;
In the good old time 'twas hanging for the colour that it is;
Though hanging isn't bad enough and flaying would be fair
For the nameless and abominable colour of his hair.
Oh a deal of pains he's taken and a pretty price he's paid
To hide his poll or dye it of a mentionable shade;
But they've pulled the beggar's hat off for the world to see and stare,
And they're haling him to justice for the colour of his hair.
Now 'tis oakum for his fingers and the treadmill for his feet
And the quarry-gang on Portland in the cold and in the heat,
And between his spells of labour in the time he has to spare
He can curse the God that made him for the colour of his hair.

Is there something I should know about people sent to jail for their hair colour, or is this a veiled reference to gay men being sent to prison (Oscar Wilde etc.) --Slashme 06:45, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

It is the latter. Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe quoted from this poem in the House of Lords in 2005 in a legal case involving a same-sex couple [1], although they happened to be women in this case. See paragraph 92. --Heron 18:40, 4 April 2006 (UTC)
Isn't it specifically about Wilde, who also had red hair, and his persecution for his sexuality?LessHeard vanU 21:36, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

No, it's not a veiled reference to sexual orientation; rather, it is explicit. AEH makes the point that sexual orientation is no more a matter of choice than hair colour, and therefore sexual acts between men are against the law. Whether he is right may be debated, but the current law holds that he is. John Wheater 21:08, 20 April 2006 (UTC)

Housman in film[edit]

I'm new to this and don't know how to format for Wikipedia, but wanted to add that in the 1985 movie "Out of Africa", Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen (Meryl Streep) read the poem To an Athlete Dying Young over the grave of Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford).

Add to "Housman in television": Sergeant Hathaway quotes the entirety of Book XL of "A Shropshire Lad" in the second episode ("The Dead of Winter") of Series 4 of Inspector Lewis: "Into my heart on air that kills." It is clearly a lament, as he re-connects after 20 years with a young lady for whom he seemingly has always carried a torch--but who now is engaged to another man.Ehpk5147 (talk) 14:55, 11 September 2010 (UTC)

A slight typo in my quote--sorry! It should read "Into my heart AN air that kills." One vowel can change the meaning entirely, n'est-ce pas??Ehpk5147 (talk) 23:47, 11 September 2010 (UTC)

C20th Music[edit]

Why does David Downes have a different para to all the great composers listed in the music section? One for music, one for 'other': Either it's C20th music or it's not. It also seems an unbalanced amount of information for someone with no entry for themselves, when compared to the list of names prior. --Rob2000 09:55, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

Whilst I am unfamiliar with Mr Downes, is it possible that he is not a composer in the classical style - and some individuals do not like their music tainted by those who work in the beat/popular field.LessHeard vanU 10:10, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
Whoa there. The sub-title isn't 20th Century Music. It's 20th Century British music. The section is about the remarkable impact of Housman's poetry on composers of a particular place and time. Arguably, Housman was second only to Shakespeare in this respect. This is not to say there shouldn't also be a discussion of Housman settings from other places and/or times, such as the David Downes piece cited, or Samuel Barber's With rue my heart is laden. If you know such repertoire, and better still can summarise and cite or link to articles on Housman's wider influence, then I'd strongly encourage you to improve an already good article.
We might like to create a seperate page for repertoire lists, and keep this article for discussion of Housman's influence, and the reasons for his popularity with particular groups of composers. Also, it will help if any further comment on this topic is made on the assumption of good faith. Countersubject 11:53, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
I can see the point made by Rob2000, as subdivisions of a header they are unbalanced; one paragraph for a group of notable composers, one paragraph for one musician without a Wiki entry (though this in itself is no indication of <lack of> quality, it should be noted!). Perhaps the subheadings should be removed and placed within the text of each paragraph, and then be re-instated when the paragraphs are expanded and other examples given?LessHeard vanU 13:27, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
Done. I've also added a couple of other examples, as part of a note on interest in the poetry from composers of other places and times. And I also took the opportunity to create a stub on David Downes! Countersubject 15:45, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
Excellent. Great work!LessHeard vanU 16:17, 10 October 2006 (UTC)
I agree. Good job editors!--Rob2000 15:15, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

Out of Africa[edit]

The Meryl Streep character also makes a toast to rose-lipped maidens & lightfoot lads, so there are at least two AE Housman references in the movie. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 03:52, 11 January 2007 (UTC).

King Edward's School[edit]

But which King Edward's School? There are several in the West Midlands alone. This needs disambiguating. 02:19, 30 April 2007 (UTC)

Order of Chaeronea[edit]

Material about his membership of Order of Chaeronea was an error. A.E. Housman was here confused with his gay brother.—Preceding unsigned comment added by JamieON (talkcontribs)

Where is this Order mentioned in the text? Also, A.E. was (very likely) gay so why his brother and not him? LessHeard vanU 06:53, 3 August 2007 (UTC)
JamieON removed the comment about it. It was unsourced regardless. Seing as it is now up for contention, it should not be replaced unless a source can be found. The Jade Knight 10:38, 3 August 2007 (UTC)
Also, there are currently no sources referenced which claim that Housman was gay. The Jade Knight 10:43, 3 August 2007 (UTC)


I have transferred the 'synopsis' of A Shropshire Lad which I originally wrote for this article, from this article to the A Shropshire Lad article, where its suitability or otherwise may be discussed if necessary at the article discussion page there. Eebahgum (talk) 10:08, 6 March 2008 (UTC)

...(sound of advancing footsteps) "Oh, alright...!" ...(sound of receding footsteps) LessHeard vanU (talk) 20:54, 6 March 2008 (UTC)

Homosexual sado-masochistic pornography and rent-boys[edit]

This is awful. If we must have it, can we please have some primary reference for these assertions and not just a quote from a BBC Radio programme? If Wikipedia content is to be justified merely by 'I heard it on the radio' I'm afraid it will rapidly become completely worthless. Eebahgum (talk) 00:01, 26 July 2008 (UTC)

I agree that print sources should be preferred to broadcasts, which may be difficult for readers to check. The ultimate source for the rent-boys may be Richard Perceval Graves, A. E. Housman (1979). Graves interpreted an unpublished document in Housman's hand as containing "references to a number of male prostitutes ... together with a note of the price paid on various occasions for their services, and a marginal note in which Alfred refers with some satisfaction to the large number of these homosexual encounters ..." (p. 155). This has been controversial: P. G. Naiditch in a generally negative review in Classical Journal 77 (1982) 361–364 thought that Graves shouldn't have made the suggestion without reproducing the document, and C. O. Brink, English Classical Scholarship (1986) called it "scurrilous fantasy" (p. 151), although it's not clear if he had actually seen the document. On the other hand, Norman Page in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states, "It seems likely that these visits [to France] also provided opportunities for homosexual adventures." I don't have access right now to Page's 1983 biography of Housman, which may discuss the issue. EALacey (talk) 08:53, 26 July 2008 (UTC)
EALacey. I have several biographies of AEH and may be able to help on this. 'in search of illicit pleasures' (p.12) of Page's 1983 bio refers us to p.155 of Graves book and note 18 on pp.282-3. Page glosses the 'document' as follows: '(it) was given considerable prominence in many of the reviews of his book; not all reviewers made it clear that his interpretation is expressed with some tentativeness. Housman's notes are far from explicit; I myself find it difficult to accept that they include 'a note of the price paid on various occasions' for the services of male prostitutes. They consist of a list of fiteen consecutive days of the week (from one Monday to the Monday a fortnight later); beside each is written a numeral, the only numerals employed being 0,3,9 and 10; beside all those except the ones with a 'zero' notation is a French noun indicating some masculine avocation or attribute - sailor, boxer, dancer, negro. (In one case danseur is queried.) In the margin '10 in 15 days' is written.'
Paul Naiditch, who should know since, to gather from his monographs he has read everything Housman wrote or read, dates the document to May 1932.(Norman Page, A.E.Housman:A Critical Biography, Macmillan, London 1983 pp.222-3). That would make Housman extremely active (or passive) in sexual encounters at age 73, hence one's natural scepticism. In any case, it is hardly pertinent to Housman's biography to go into details that must remain purely speculative, and in any case, playing up only to prurient perving. Obviously he fucked around in France. Do we have to supply on the Georges Simenon page details of the 5000 prostitutes he relieved himself on (5,000 according to his wife, 10,000 according to his own tumescent memory).
One might note that his younger brother Laurence was also homosexual and a member of the Order of Chaeronea, and the suggestion is that AEH also belonged to this order possibly, a suggestion based on hearsay about the diary of George Ives. Unfortunately the diary's names are all coded, and it is not available for consultation, and reposes in the Humanities Research Collection at the University of Texas (Page ibid.p.211)Nishidani (talk) 19:42, 26 July 2008 (UTC)
Thanks, that's very useful info. Based on what you've written, I'd say the hypothesis that Housman used male prostitutes is too conjecutral to be worth discussing in a brief biography like the one in this article, especially given that it's not of great importance anyway. EALacey (talk) 14:41, 27 July 2008 (UTC)
IMO, if that really is the whole strength of the evidence for rent-boys, then it is nothing more than a conjecture, and has no place at all in the main text on Housman's life. This is an article about Housman, not about what one highly imaginative commentator (Graves) thought about a list of words and numbers on a bit of paper. If the evidence were clear, I would support the inclusion of the statement actually within the text - I'm not trying to censor anything. But as it's just a guess, a tentative published suggestion, the right place for the whole statement is in a footnote, I suggest. Eebahgum (talk) 18:58, 27 July 2008 (UTC)
Looks like we have a consensus then. There's only point in mentioning the conjecture if such things played a significant role in AEH's public life. They didn't. Wilde used rent-boys, was found out, and it became a public scandal and led to a scandalous trial, and this forms part of his biography. Royalty screws round, it should not warrant notice unless, as with Mrs. Simpson or Charles or Diana, it became part of the public record. WH Auden used rent-boys, but who cares? Use this criterion, and most wiki lives on public people will have to cram in the usual, utterly banal details about call-girls, adulteries, toy-boys etc. I'd no more mention the fact in a wiki bio than I would the fact that Auden was careless with his snot, and occasionally pissed in the corner of people's apartments, as did Christopher Brennan, or that the English nobility that took over the colleges of Oxford during the great plague left the rooms full of shit. Any one who reads Auden, Housman, Hopkins, Verlaine, Stefan George, Wittgenstein, Turing, etc.etc., for these details should go elsewhere, but not to an encyclopedia. The decisive thing is, such stuff is utterly tedious compared to the excitement of his scholarship, and the elegiac tenderness of his lyrics.Nishidani (talk) 19:41, 27 July 2008 (UTC)

The 'Great Lives' radio programme was broadcast BBC Radio 4 27th and 30th May 2008. Matthew Parris introduced Inspector Morse author (and classicist) Colin Dexter, who nominated A.E.H. as a 'Great Life', and Oxford academic Robert Douglas-Fairhurst. Eebahgum (talk) 17:29, 26 July 2008 (UTC)

  • I'm not seeing how the detail of his homosexuality is pertinent to his poetry, which is the most notable aspect of his fame. Has anyone written how his sexuality informed his pessimistic/romantic style and pre-occupation with death and the transience of life (and how he did not consider his poetry as anything of real worth, in regard to his translations of the writers of antiquity). I think we are pretty much losing sight of the notability of Housman given the (pink) fog that was his preference of sexual partner. LessHeard vanU (talk) 23:18, 26 July 2008 (UTC)
  • The most notable aspect of his fame in general terms (popular) is his poetry. The most notable aspect of his fame in specific terms (academic) lies in his praeternatural capacity to see past dozens of transmission errors and bad emendations to restore readings, especially in Latin, that turn a bad text into a natural and fluent line. Housman's Muse is not of the highest order: he is a very fine minor genre poet. But as an emendator he stands up among the pléiade of the greatest textual critics since the Renaissance. This should be what is showcased (innumerable scholars mention it), then his poetry, and the central experience of his emotional life, his deep and lifelong unrequired love for Moses Jackson, which is what much of his poetry is about. The rest is just the usual barnyard gossip, and anything more than a line on rentboys should be struck out as a violation of WP:Undue. Nishidani (talk) 08:55, 27 July 2008 (UTC)
What? People are still buying his poems, and they are still being referenced a century after their publication - and this is the basis of his notability, rather than being one of the finest translators of Latin of the last couple of hundred years. I see (from the article) that at least one of his "Lifes" is still the basis of the definitive work on the subject, but without review I cannot name who... However (and I admit to being a fan) I can recall many, many lines from A Shropshire Lad. I think you are mistaking plaintive language and uncomplicated rhyming structures for a lack of genius, wherein I (after others) would argue that the ability to confer the sense of pessimism and doomed romanticism (and some beautiful sly humour) in simple word structures is the very mark of such an accolade.
Also, nearly all people coming to this encyclopedia to learn about this subject will be prompted by the poetry - those who are familiar with his work in translating Latin are more likely to be more aware of Housman than the article here provides. The premise for inclusion in WP is notability, and Housmans popularity as a poet if far more notable than his work in academia. Oh, and his sexuality - while it was likely of utmost importance to him and may have effected his Muse - is only a footnote as to how it may have effected his choice of subject. LessHeard vanU (talk) 10:11, 27 July 2008 (UTC)
I made a distinction you prefer to ignore. There are two kinds of notability, that should be distinguished.
He was not one of the finest translators of Latin in the past couple of hundred years. He was a precise translator on occasion, but preferred to comment on poems rather than translate them.
I too like Housman's poetry. It is strong poetry in a minor register. Many of our most memorable poets rank thus. He is not a great poet: too limited in scale, his Muse is too narrow.
People come to Wikipedia for many reasons. We are here simply to give a balanced account of the man. Most of his work, and distinction lies in scholarship, his genius if you will. Most bios deal with this. It is a matter of weight. We should reflect his biographers, who mainly dwell on his work as a classicist, and devote at most a fifth of their books to his poetry.
Much of his poetry draws implicitly, in the most cunningly evasive way, on his reading of Greek and Latin literature. Without that allusiveness they can be understood as simple, beautifully crafted lyrics of course, but the deeper side of Housman in there, is refracted through the allusions, and the side engaged with antiquity, is lost, to the reader's loss, unless one notes the influence.
Of course he was a genius, but most critics take his pronounced poetic gift as something he sacrificed on the altar of his scholarship, to the gain of academia, and the loss of poetry-lovers. That was his choice, and we should respect it. Gerald Manley Hopkins is a much stronger and greater poetic genius because he forsook scholarship for poetry, before foresaking poetry for the Church.Nishidani (talk) 10:39, 27 July 2008 (UTC)
There are some ideas here that, with all respect, I think should be refuted. First, he did not produce translations of works, except only that at one lecture he read out a version of an ode of Horace, "diffugere nives". Otherwise, his "translations" consisted of expounding the meaning of difficult phrases in texts, or ones that had been taken wrongly by others, mispunctuated perhaps, or had been corrupted. Then, there is the idea that he sacrificed poetic genius to scholarship. As said above, his poetic inspiration was narrow, rare and fitful. The article is good on this. Most importantly, there is the eloquently expressed idea that his poetry is full of allusions to the classics, which give it deeper meanings. I call this important because it is discouraging to people without the knowledge of the classics, that is, almost everyone. I believe this is quite wrong. He may have picked up phrases here and there from the classics, but they are quite unimportant poetically: they are just a bit of raw material. When a bloke invites his bird to a bit of the "light fantastic" he is not alluding to Milton, though using his words, and that is what Housman's classical borrowings are like. So don't be put off: you are missing nothing if you don't know that "On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble" borrows a couple of words from Horace. Seadowns (talk) 15:17, 15 January 2017 (UTC)


I took the link to Georgian era out, as the link pointed to the era of the first four Georges who were before Victoria. Really the sentence needs to be reworded, since 'Georgian' refers to Georges I to IV. I don't know what the correct adjective is for the time of George V.

--Publunch (talk) 19:57, 11 November 2008 (UTC)

removal of POV tag[edit]

I would like to thank Eclectiology for removing the POV tag. If anyone has an objection to this, please list it here before reverting. Thanks Mrathel (talk) 13:05, 15 December 2008 (UTC)


This article needs an infobox. P Cezanne (talk) 18:33, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

Please feel free to edit the infobox I added and the format of the article; neither Houseman nor layouts are my forte. Mrathel (talk) 19:10, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

Other art Forms[edit]

I fear the section on Houseman in Other Art Forms is growing to be too cumbersome and is attracting connective trivia. Perhaps if we were to put this into a text form it would discourage the addition of references that do not specifically talk about the article's subject. Mrathel (talk) 05:28, 4 December 2009 (UTC)

Full name in title[edit]

Why is A. E. Housman referred to by his full name in the title? He's virtually never known as that. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 04:46, 29 May 2010 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: page moved. Vegaswikian (talk) 01:58, 17 August 2010 (UTC)

Alfred Edward HousmanA. E. Housman

He's virtually never known by his full name "Alfred Edward Housman", always by A. E. Housman. Compare H. G. Wells, not Herbert George Wells; or D. H. Lawrence, not David Herbert Lawrence. Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 12:09, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
Disagree with the latter comment. That is a misconception of what redirects are for. It's not a case of "the route doesn't matter as long as they get to the right article in the end". In this case, they type the correct name "A. E. Housman", and they end up in the wrong place; the wrong place being an article with a name that nobody ever uses. We may as well call this article "Fred Smith" for all the good that does. -- Jack of Oz ... speak! ... 20:20, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Support - agree with others that AE is the more common name. Corvus coronoides talk 20:02, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
  • This is very true. Let's move it. --Ghirla-трёп- 20:02, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Support, he is presently published as A.E. Housman. LessHeard vanU (talk) 20:52, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

First paragraph[edit]

As it stood:

Lyrical and almost epigrammatic in form, the poems' wistful evocation of doomed youth in the English countryside...

But it isn't the "wistful evocation" that is "lyrical and almost epigrammatic in form." MagistraMundi (talk) 10:10, 24 March 2014 (UTC)

A.E. Housman's tribute to RLS[edit]

According to this webpage (see references at the bottom of the page) around 1929 poet A.E. Housman wrote a tribute poem to RLS inspired by his gravestone Requiem. While I do not have access to the texts referenced it seems very likely that the variance in the lines from the two poems could be the source of the many misquotes. In either case I think it would be prudent to include this information in both WP articles since readers often want to know the source of a famous quotation and in this case the answer is two-fold. If anyone has access to the referenced book and letters please verify this information. Koala Tea Of Mercy (KTOM's Articulations & Invigilations) 18:52, 29 July 2015 (UTC)

Shoehorned reference?[edit]

...many early 20th-century English composers (beginning with Arthur Somervell)...

Is it necessary to mention Arthur Somervell in the lede? It's jarring, because it reads as tho' a fan of Arthur Somervell has decided to get his name into prominence. But he isn't important in A.E. Housman's story and isn't particularly famous as an English composer. I don't think he should be mentioned so early. I'll remove the ref if there are no objections. MagistraMundi (talk) 09:49, 4 April 2016 (UTC)

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