Saturday, May 24, 2014

I have a question.

I did a smidgen of scholarly research on the author of this poem.

A. E. Housman
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A. E. Housman

Alfred Edward Housman
26 March 1859
30 April 1936 (aged 77)
Pen name
A. E. Housman
Classicist, Poet
Alma mater
Alfred Edward Housman (/ˈhaʊsmən/; 26 March 1859 – 30 April 1936), usually known as A. E. Housman, was an English classical scholar and poet, best known to the general public for his cycle of poems A Shropshire Lad. Lyrical and almost epigrammatic in form, the poems wistfully evoke the dooms and disappointments of youth in the English countryside. Their beauty, simplicity and distinctive imagery appealed strongly to late Victorian and Edwardian taste, and to many early 20th-century English composers (beginning with Arthur Somervell) both before and after the First World War. Through their song-settings, the poems became closely associated with that era, and with Shropshire itself.
Housman was one of the foremost classicists of his age and has been ranked as one of the greatest scholars who ever lived.[1][2] He established his reputation publishing as a private scholar and, on the strength and quality of his work, was appointed Professor of Latin at University College London and then at Cambridge. His editions of Juvenal, Manilius and Lucan are still considered authoritative.
[My emphasis.]

"One of the greatest scholars who ever lived." 

Good Lord! I'm sure you-- Dear Scholared Readers of Literature-- have heard of him but I hadn't until today.  

Q: Why is this?

That question assumes the premise-- that Houseman was one of the greatest scholars who ever lived. (I'm no philosopher, but I think that's called "begging the question.") And that he was a good poet. 

So I swiveled my chair around to pick up Miss M's copy of The New Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1918 (Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed., Oxford University Press, New York, 1955, 1939, first published 1900) and I see that A.E. Houseman has a grand total of three (3) poems (pp. 1052-53) included.

So I'm not buying it. 

If he was one of the greatest scholars who ever lived who just happened to write poetry, he'd have gotten more than what amounts to a page in this 1100+ page anthology in 9-pt font. 

I did like the poem, though. I thought it appropriate for Decoration Day


  1. You're conflating the scholar and poet. He was a great scholar of the classics, Roman and Latin. The question doesn't beg the question, rather, your answer does.



Be nice. Nothing inappropriate, please.