Four poems by A. E. Housman, 1958-08-04



the Ball State Library of explication takes the following discussion of literature is one of a series made possible through Lilly Endowment grant the award was made by the Committee on foundation grants of the association of college and research libraries a division of the American Library Association these grants are for the purpose of promoting more extensive and imaginative use of library resources by undergraduate students unless otherwise specified the panelists are members of the English department of Ball State Teachers College for poems by AE Housman discussing these poems are professor Jean Andrews professor Alfred Marx and professor David W Shepherd the chestnut casts his Flambeau by AE Housman the chestnut casts his Flambeau and the flowers stream from the Hawthorn on the wind away the doors clapped to the pain is blind with showers Pass me the can lad there is an end of May there's one spoilt spring too scant our mortal lot one season ruined of our little store may we'll be fine next year as like as not oh I but then we shall be twenty-four we for a certainty are not the first have set in taverns while the tempest hurl their hopeful plans to emptiness and cursed whatever brute and blaggard made the world it is in truth iniquity on high to cheat our sentenced souls of all they crave and Mar the merriment is you and I fair on our long fool's errand to the grave iniquity it is but past the can my lad no pair of kings our mothers bore our only portion is the estate of man we want the moon but we shall get no more if here today the cloud of thunder Lauer's tomorrow it will high on far behest the flesh will grieve on other bones than ours soon and the soul will mourn in other breasts the troubles of our proud and angry dust are from eternity and shall not fail better than we can and if we can we must shoulder the sky my lad and drink your ale professor Shepherd could you tell us what Haussmann means here in this opening line the chestnut casts is Flambeau this is a figure of speech that may pose some difficulty or those of us who are not familiar with chestnut trees the a torch like blossom on the chestnut tree and it simply here the storm is stripping the tree of its blossoms the same thing applies to the blossoms and the Hawthorn the violent wind of the violent rain is wrecking the rather beautiful spring scenery I think there's also the implication is there not that there this is a kind of end of a torchlight procession and as a torchlight possession very commonly symbolizes when the people cast their torches on the ground at the end of the torchlight procession symbolize that time is passing and that we have come to the end of an era here prematurely the spring is ending the flower is streamed from the Hawthorn they streamed from the chestnut the wind is blowing the doors clap – doors are slamming outside shutters are slamming the pain is blind with showers we can't see out of the window for the rain that is cascading down the windowpane and so the person says here asked me the cam lad there's an end of May May is over he doesn't necessarily mean that this is May 30 he means simply that the the season of blossoms has come to an end ask me the can now there's nothing to do but forget the difficulties of the world in Pleasant inebriation in the second stanza we see an attitude that I think is is rather typical of Houseman Houseman always looked back upon his youth with a great deal of nostalgia he regarded this apparently as a period of joy and innocence and in this particular poem he imagines himself as as being 24 again and looks outside at the very bad weather that they're heading during the spring and thinks of how this particular spring has been ruined and that a human being only has a fairly limited number of Springs to enjoy during his lifetime so that here Houseman then observes that one season has been ruined of our little store and in the last two lines of the stanza he points out that although implicitly I think an optimist might point out that the following year will be very pleasant perhaps Houseman reminds us that the following year will not be quite the same to him spring means means different things to a man at different ages and although his 24th spring might be very pleasant his 23rd spring has been forever and just as we might imagine that it somehow or another a men's 21st birthday were ruined in some way it would be of small comfort to him that he would have other birthdays because a man's 21st birthday has a special significance for him now Houseman is not attaching any special significance to the 23rd spring anymore than he attaches a special significance to every spring here I think and he says here that although there may be other pleasant Springs in his life one particular one the spring of his 23rd year has been lost forever and there can never be another one exactly like it in this next stanza dr. Shepherd we have a line that I think many people might interpret as being blasphemous do you agree that we have blasphemy in this next stanza where he refers to the Creator as a brute in blaggard I think was a very literal interpretation we do not have blasphemy in its usual sense because he is attributing this to other people who obviously he may be doing it too it takes what comfort he can't in the fact that well there are others who have spent a ruined day in the tavern cursing forces of nature and of course cursed whatever bruising Blackard made the world it borders on blasphemy but I don't think we can say that at this point Houseman is damning God you're not doing that at all as I say he is on the border the this is pursued in the fourth stanza it is in truth iniquity on high to cheat our sentient souls of what they crave this goes back to the 23rd spring which you just discussed a sense of the whole impetuous youth here frustrated by something he cannot control the important thing is the spring that I'm in at the moment and he apparently distrust the future with good reason because all right next spring may be beautiful but look what happened to this one all right we take it without saying anything next friend comes and it's ruined but he is showing considerable concern here for the present note the last two lines of the fourth stanza and Martha Merriman as you and I fare on our long fool's errand to the grave some more of Haussmann's cynicism or pessimism yes I think that that here we've got to keep in mind that that the point is a dramatic point and that Houseman is has become a character in his own time the these phrases which might ordinarily be regarded as blasphemous I think we have to make allowances for when we consider that they are uttered in a particular dramatic situation namely the man is is kept indoors by the pouring rain outside he's frustrated and without thinking of the deity as a personal sort of God at all he says anyone who is responsible for this terrible weather is a wicked person because it is in truth wickedness to cheat us of the few pleasures in life that we might enjoy there is however the Martha merriment as you and I hear in that end of that pan that might give us the possibility of saying here that it is Houseman talking but it is simply a small ray of light that we can seize on or not he continues in five he repeats the word in it okay iniquity it is it's iniquity what the way in which God seems to treat us here on earth but past the can let us forget about it again in drink then he uses a an allusion or I suppose we call it a rather concealed image in the next two lines where he says I'll add no pair of kings our mothers bore our only portion is the estate of man and portion is used here quite concisely to mean inheritance we are not King therefore we don't inherit what Kings do all we get for our estate is what any man gets any common man we want the moon we would like to inherit more than this when we are brought into the world but we shall get no more than that portion which any mother gives to any child of man yes and I think that in spans of six we have an implication at least of what this portion of man is don't you think so dr. Shepherd I think so I think the portion of man gets is misery and again Houseman takes a lot comfort he can and the fact that others will be miserable that if we have a thunderstorm here today ruining a fine weather we can be quite sure that someone else's merry month of May will be completely spoiled somewhere else but he states in other terms the flesh will grieve on other bones than ours and the soul will mourn another breast so he moves it to well as opposed to a philosophical plane that can be called that or chemical and anatomical but still has certain theological overtones here he talks about flesh bones and soul morning another breast he's out of the tavern at this point yes I think that that also he implies here that that life consists of both good our pleasantness and evil or our discomfort that tomorrow we may be having a better time here the weather may be more pleasant here someone else will be miserable that is life consists of a series of alternating Pleasant experiences and and miserable experiences I think the seventh stands as well as a sixth perhaps takes us back to Terrence life consists of ill and good go far much more of the ills and I'll be good so brace yourselves the worst and if you're conditioned to evil and to misfortunes then you will be able to survive our troubles the troubles of our proud and angry dust are from eternity and shall not fail this is forever there's no point in looking for the good life on this earth yes we can also consider this as a as a further explanation of stanza six in stanza six the implication is that life consists of both good and evil and in stanza seven he brings out as you've suggested this idea that we found find in Terence this is stupid stuff that the one thing that we can count on in this life however is trouble and that we can expect trouble and I think the implication is that we should accept them accept our troubles of philosophically endure them and do the best we can with them and the word from eternity also go back to the words a state of man in times of five these troubles are from eternity meaning that man has always had these difficulties and in a sense also they are given us by the Almighty yes there's a an interesting little pun in the last two lines better than we can and if we can we must this I think picks us back to the last line in stanza one for instance pass me the can lad that is he's punting upon the Tanika and the container used for drinking beer or ale there then we can and if we can we must that is mankind is so constituted that we are able to endure our troubles and in as much as we are able to endure these troubles we have no choice but to accept them and to try to live with them shoulder the sky my lad and drink your ale I think councilman here is counseling us to accept our troubles philosophically to try to endure them and to live in this life with a minimum of discomfort again the carpenter's son here are the hangman stops his cart now the best of friends must part fare you well for ill fare I live lads and I will die Oh at home had I but stayed finished to my father's trade had I stuck to plain and adds I had not been lost my lads then I might have built perhaps gallows trees for other chaps never dangled on my own had i but left ill alone now you see they hang me high and the people passing by stopped to shake their fists and curse so it has come from ill to worse here hang I and right and left to poor fellows hang for theft all the sames the luck we prove though the midmost hangs for love comrades all that standing gays walk henceforth in other ways see my neck and save your own comrades all leave ill alone make some day a decent end shrewder fellows than your friend fare you well for ill fare I live lads and I will die now this poem utilizes a technique that's rather familiar in modern poetry not so common in 19th century poetry even late 19th century poetry which this is it sets up at least two different levels of interpretation it can be read on the one hand on a surface level which is fairly easy and which reveals itself fairly immediately and a second level which is much deeper and at the same time has a number of complications in it that may bring about various interpretations first then the story is simply that of a carpenter's son who grew up left his father's trade went we don't know quite where perhaps to the city and then committed some crime for which he got himself hanged now they crime we were not sure of but it seems as if on this first level was something that had to do with women and that had to do with love the poem then on its surface level is a quotation from the mouth of the carpenter's son who is about to be hanged he tells us in the first answer that the hangman is topping his cart and he stands in the cart or beside the cart or tumbrill as those of us familiar with the French Revolution might call it and lectures them as to the meaning of his death the meaning in the second stanza is that it would have been well had he stayed with his father and he continued working at his trade the third stanza says that if he had this stayed with his father he would not now be about to be hanged and in the fourth stanza he shows how he has become an object of derision and even of invective as he stands here and as he will soon be on the gallows then in stanza 5 he mentions the fact that although here to some extent he seems to be actually hanging and his message is given while he is hanging from the gallows and he mentions that on each side of him are two other men who were hanged because they stole something he however he reminds us here or tells us here died for love in the next stanza he said to his friends look upon me and see my neck and save your own neck I sing the thing that I have done and by avoiding if you can the the kind of fate to which I have come be shrewd and be shrewder than I and make someday a decent end and then live through and buy my day from the second level however I think we we see that the protagonist of this point there's a rather striking resemblance to a well-known historical and Theological figure that is first of all the very title itself informs us that this man is the son of a carpenter a son who however did not follow his father's trade but who went on to lead a different sort of life we see that this carpenter's son has done something for which he is being punished he's being punished by hanging the fact that only his right and on his left two thieves are being hanged also begins to point out quite clearly I think that this person is one who is suffering much the same fate that Christ suffered he's hanging between two thieves and the people are walking by and cursing him and finally in a sense the advice that he gives to his companions is also christ-like in one sense that as he tells them to leave ill alone this is a line however that I think is subject to other interpretations also perhaps Professor Shepherd you could tell us what you how you think this advice that the carpenter gives to his companions should be interpreted well I think the advice here is a startling departure from traditional Christian theology that is if we assume with it that this is the Christ myth running through this poem if this were traditional Christian theology the carpenter's son would say he would say go out and reform the world even though I die for it that the the afterlife that will count there's no reference here to an afterlife and the advice and the last stems is this don't tamper with the world as it is leave it alone go your way don't pay any attention to your neighbor but above all don't try to reform the world because if you do you can see what will happen you'll be hanged so that in this poem I think Haussmann presents the carpenter's son on two levels first the reformer with no metaphysical or no spiritual overtones and second is perhaps a cynical view of Christ that he sees things rather pointless all the other yes as I see it this is a as an attempt at a reinterpretation of the Christ figure clearly enough the carpenter's son is not Christ himself but he's someone who has had a an experience that is remarkably similar to that of Christ I think that it's significant that instead of calling this poem the son of God Houseman has entitled it the carpenter's son that is I think that we are to view Christ here in his capacity as a human being and we are to analyze his experience as the experience of the human being and that what Houseman is saying in effect is that a person who sets out to govern his life on the principle of brotherly love who attempts to reform the world and to make of it a world of love is one who is destined to come to a bad end in the eyes of the world that is he will be whipped with the world's displeasure the world will not reward him for his how true istic behavior but rather will punish him for his efforts to correct the evil in the world I think there are two other things that might be noted first that the spiritual overtone is removed there is nothing that the supernatural hear if we go back to the crucifixion we find first Christ did not address the crowd his last words were oh my god last forsaken me something of that nature not so here we have the lamb about to be hanged preaching a sermon but with the what we might say rather a reverse twist to it not telling people to be good he's telling them to mind their own business yes what I'd like to add and perhaps subtract something from those points you made mr. Shepherd first of all the carpenter's son seems to be alive in the first three stanzas of the palm after that he seems to be speaking while he is dead therefore perhaps he doesn't really speak words in the first three stanzas and perhaps his actions are speaking the words of this particular poem in addition to that we have the problem as to what he is saying now if he is saying see my neck and save your own he is giving a very shallow council he is simply saying here something like he who lives and runs or he who fights and runs away will live to fight another day and he who is in battle flame will never live to fight again he is implying that people should keep out of trouble and leave ill alone and in addition to that since we are playing with the word love and the word ill in this second level he should also not be so guilty as to do anything for love of man and when it comes to any evil that has been committed in the world he should not attempt to set it right because evil is something that will blacken you and that will kill you if you try to do anything about it I think that a deeper meaning lies here then simply that shallow counsel as I have called I think that the man who is being hanged is speaking with irony and that he is saying as he does in the last answer with the word shrewd that whereas the shrewd fellows in the world those who are after their own concerns will take care of their own concerns and do nothing for the their fellow man and for the world and for the good of the world the men like the carpenter's son will still die for what they believe in even though from everything that seems to be proper and good on the surface it might be well for them to stay away from the difficulties of the world well if this irony is indeed in the poem that's very subtle irony and a wonderful isn't the weakness in the poem who reserved that irony for the very last stanza or two the thing that raises doubts in my mind is the diction of the part the word hang repeated throughout dangled gallows trees chaps its own very pedestrian level very common level and there's the possibility here that the irony is that the true believer the reformer who is being hanged is a pretty shoddy sort of person perhaps the irony goes in a different direction you interpret it my point is that if we take this on its easiest second level interpretation that he is quite chatty and that if we want to make him as something better and perhaps if we want to make him as something if not christ-like at least similar to the human Christ we must say that the irony does show him saying something better and something deeper I wonder about this and the theory of irony when numb when the carpenter's son tells his companions walk hints forth in other ways it seems to me that he's actually giving them some good practical advice and I find it the advice the carpenter's son gives his companions is fairly consistent with with Haussmann's attitude toward troubles and evil throughout the Shropshire lad and and in last poems also that his Houseman views this world as being to put it mildly an imperfect world in which man is afflicted with all kinds of troubles he regards it as a world in which a great deal of evil exists and it seems to me that Haussmann's basic philosophy is that man should not try to change the world but should learn how to accommodate himself so that he is able to live in this imperfect world you recall again the moral to Terence this is stupid stuff there are troubles in the world and there's not very much that we can do about these troubles except to accommodate ourselves to them here of course I don't deny that there's irony here when when the carpenter's son says that that he is hanging for love clearly enough the comparison with the Christ figure is rather ironical Christ was hanging for a love of mankind this carpenter's son who appears to be a 19th century carpenter's son is hanging because he got into trouble as the result of a love affair with a woman apparently again I think that there is there's irony here in the meaning of leave ill alone on one level the 19th century carpenter appears to be telling his comrades to avoid beak waves of evil when we try to interpret this as the speech of a Christ figure however the advice seems to me to mean that one should not tamper with evil because clearly enough the Christ figure Christ himself was not a person who followed an evil course of action his mistake was simply in trying to change the evil nature of man so that actually it seems to me that this plan works in an interesting fashion instead of the Christ figure changing our opinion of the carpenter exactly the opposite happens that is the carpenters dilemma sheds new light upon the Christ story and leads us to reinterpret the Christ story itself well I would think I will add this and I think that had i but left ill alone can be interpreted in only one way that is that the carpenter's son is attempting to correct the evil that he sees in that sense he's not going out and forward a riotous existence or anything like that in this sense he is trying to reform the world he's trying to do something about evil you mean the Christ Christ is the carpenter's son is the one who is trying to correct evil and this is what he gets for his thanks I would like to just conclude our reading of the poem on this note that it seems to be true here that Houseman has hung us up on the two horns that he very frequently sets up to hang his pawns on on the one hand he is extremely pessimistic about the world and tells how the world is a difficult place and how if one is wise in the world he will avoid the difficulties of the world and prepare himself to bear them but will not take any more of them upon his shoulders than is absolutely necessary on the other hand he shows a strong admiration for the man who goes out and gets himself killed for a principle I don't know that he gives us the answer as to whether he is on either horn here in the palm suffice it to say that the palm leaves to at least two interpretations and perhaps to the central paradox at the core of Christian belief four poems by AE Housman discussing these poems our professor Jean Andrews professor Alfred Marx and Professor David W Shepherd could man be drunk forever could man be drunk forever with liquor love or fights leaf should I arouse it morning and leaf lie down of nights but men and Wiles are sober and think by fits and starts and if they think they fasten their hands on their hearts dr. Marx what do you think Houseman is counseling us to do here is he recommending drunkenness as a means of escape from our troubles well in the first two lines he is stating the possibility that men might find drunkenness in various pursuits first naturally they can become drunk with liquor second they can become drunk with love and I think we know of more than one case of a person who has been driven out of his head by love and third by Heights I don't know whether we know of many people who enjoy fighting who love to fight who become consumed by the joy of hiding this kind of person we would perhaps think of as being the same kind of person who would be rather free with his liquor and who might also attempt to be rather free with women if he were able this kind of brawling nature however Houseman is implying all men have and all men would desire this kind of drunkenness then you think that what he is doing here is using this image of drunkenness on alcohol as the basis for his whole poem although he actually means by drunkenness simply the act of becoming so intensely engaged or occupied in some activity that he loses himself is that correct yes in this stems of them our Houseman has said is that if it were possible for a man to become so occupied with some activity whether it's drinking whether it's a love affair possibly a military battle or perhaps even on a simpler level just a conflict of personalities of some sort if he could become so engaged in such an activity he says that he would gladly get up in the morning and gladly would lie down at night seems to me that we have a picture here not of the good life perhaps but at least a picture of the life Houseman would like to lead or the world he can get along with and we'll notice that in the beginning of the second stanza of the first two lines but that is an important button but men of miles are sober and think about fits and starts man does not stay drunk forever he will liquor or love or anything else he spoils everything but thinking yes I think this is clearly what he is saying that although being drunk forever would furnish one means of escape from our troubles perhaps that inevitably there comes an end to drunkenness whether it is a drunkenness on alcohol or whether it's a love affair or whether it is a conflict and when he does sober up he discovers that he thanks I think the problem that arises with the last two lines of the poem the first six lines are perfectly understandable but this other passage and if they think they fasten their hands upon their hearts now what does this bring up dr. marks well this brings up the fact that life for men as husband seasoned husband we can say is a pessimist is a difficult one life is hard on men and would be very nice if they could escape it by being drunk in the various ways that they like to get drunk but oh they must think once in a while and Hoffman is implying it is very difficult for a man to think seriously about the world without becoming very sad is there the possibility that announcement is saying that the thing that makes the world unpleasant place in which to live is the fact that men think or that men have to think again a physic yes I think the implication here is that this world that we live in is a dim dark veil of Tears and that in order to survive with a minimum of pain it is necessary for us to forget about our true surroundings and become so intensely occupied with some sort of activity that we don't have time to think and our role this drunkenness that Houseman considers in the first stanza as a possible means of escape works part at the time here in the last two lines and if they think they fasten their hands upon their hearts he's saying I think quite clearly that eventually man has to sober up to face the philosophical truths of his own existence and that such meditation about his own situation in this world leads to sadness that is the image of the hand upon the heart I think is a gesture of indicating pain in this point epilogue Terrence this is stupid stuff you eat your vittles fast enough there can't be much amiss tis clearer to see the rate you drink your beer but oh good lord the verse you make it gives a chapter bellyache the cow the old cow she is dead it sleeps well the Hornet head we poor lads did I return now to hear such tunes as kill the cow pretty friendship kiss to rhyme your friends to death before their time moping melancholy mad come pipe a tune to dance to glad you'll notice that the first stanza of this point is in quotation marks perhaps dr. Shepherd you could tell us who seems to be speaking in this opening stanza and to whom is he speaking speaker is addressing his remarks to Terrence Terrence is the poet presumably Houseman the speaker a critic not a critic in the literary sense but he's one of the boys in the pub and begins his observation by noting well Houseman you your nothing's wrong with your appetite nothing's wrong with your thirst apparently there can't be too much wrong with the world apparently it's an opening attack on Haussmann's pessimism or perhaps at the worst to the cynicism yes he's very obviously critical of the poetry that he's been reading for he says oh good lord the verse you make it gives a child gives a chapter bellyache perhaps dr. mark you marks you could explain this next passage of the cow the old cow she is dead it sleeps well the horny the head this doesn't seem to fit in very well with the context of the point these lines are a kind of burlesque on the kind of poem that Terence likes to compose we might even reread the lines in this way look how the old cow she is dead it sleeps well the horn it had a kind of melodramatic burlesque of the kind of unfortunate sad sentimental maudlin poem that his friends here seem to think that Terence is guilty of composing the lines following it we poor lads is our turn now to hear such tunes as killed the cow bring back to me an expression that was used when I was a very small boy and it applied to anyone who was singing or playing on an instrument any tune that was very far from being tuned whole the expression always used was that it was the tune the cow died on and hear the implication is I think that the I think the same expression lies behind the statement here it is our turn now to hear such tunes as killed a cow the cons that you are composing for us are very sufficient to have killed the cow had she not been dead when you wrote about her notice that the drinking companion critic apparently does not take Houseman poetry seriously at all to produce this little burlesque same time the critic is voicing what amounts to a popular conception of what poetry ought to be we it ought to be cheerful it ought to be inspiring perhaps edifying but if nothing else at least cheerful it's the type of demand we get for the newspaper poet that type of thing and as he says in the last line something we can dance to it is very interesting nowadays to listen to Steve Allen for instance about every other week on his program he introduces a few lines from modern song lyrics and mentions again rather over dramatically that the men who usually or who would under normal circumstances write poetry are now writing song lyrics he doesn't mean it at all of course and then he reads a few very strange very maudlin song lyrics however this friend of Haussmann's seems to feel that the poet would be much better off while he writing popular songs yes of course in the concluding line to this stanza I think we have what amounts to a tongue-in-cheek pastoral allusion whenever we find a point talking about typing a tune he is as a rule not referring to the playing of a musical instrument at all but is referring to the pastoral conceit which regards the creation of poetry our compares the creation of poetry to the typing of a tune by a shepherd yes the general pastoral tradition sometimes called the pagan tradition at other times called the Arcadian tradition sometimes also referred to as bucolic the kind of world in which pan is the king and in which we have satyrs and nymphs and fauns and dryads and hamadryas all bad thing about madly is the kind of world that this man perhaps were just too soon living the joyful world which is not governed at all by modern convention and modern law and even modern concepts of religion in the first stanza then we hear one opinion of Terrence's poetry his friend objects to the poetry that he has read principally because he believes it to be excessively melancholy much too sad in the next stanza however we see characters answer in which he defends his poetry why if tis dancing you would be there's brisker pipes than poetry say for what were happy arts meant or why was Burton built on Trent Oh many appear of England bruised Lively a liquor than the muse and malt does more than Milton can to justify God's ways to man hail man L the stuff to drink or fellows who it hurts to think look into the pewter pot to see the world of the world's not and faith his Pleasant tilt his past the mischievous that will not last oh I have been to Ludlow fair and left my necktie god knows where and carried halfway home or near pints and quarts of Ludlow beer then the world seemed none so bad and I myself a sterling lad and down in lovely muck I've lain happy till I woke again then I saw the morning sky I hold the tale was all a lie the world it was the old world yet I was I my things were wet and nothing now remained to do but begin the game anew here we see the poet launching an attack on the critic he's saying that if you want something will cheer you up then don't look for it in my poetry find more potent things more cheerful things in the village pub but don't come to my poetry for it of course we get these references to the hop yards Burton built on Trent obviously a brewery and in the second line there's brisker pikes and poetry I think we have a pun here the type of ale at the same time a reference to the type of pan which is referred to in the first stanza the pipe is a term now I've forgotten how many gallons there are in the pipe perhaps even as many as a few hundred gallons I've forgotten but it is a tremendous barrel which is used I think most commonly for wine but could also be used for áliveá I suppose yes in the in the lines and malt does more than Milton can to justify God's ways to man I think we have a reference to an idea that we've previously encountered in could man be drunk forever that is if one's purpose in life is to live with a minimum of pain drunkenness the drinking of beer our ale is much more effective in letting man forget his troubles than poetry even poetry of the very best sort of course we have here a sort of paraphrase of Milton's of our purpose in paradise lost to justify God's ways to man and Houseman R Terrence is here saying that getting drunk is much more effective than reading poetry if one's purpose is to live in this world with reasonable happiness notice there are two lines here which refer to the first poem we read a old man hails the stuff to drink for fellows whom it hurts to thank for the men who fashioned their hands upon their hearts they can take refuge refuge in drunkenness look into the pewter pot to see the world as the world's not well certain we got a philosophy of poetry here if we can use that heroic term that the poet is saying it's my job to describe the world as it is not as you wish it might be he's not another word as Houseman was saying if you want escapism don't come to me go to the village bar or go to Hollywood there is also the implication that when a person is looking into the pewter pot into the Stein or the Ale mug or the can as Houseman calls it elsewhere that one sees the bottom of the mug of course and not the world and at the same time while one has the pot of ale to his lips and is drinking from it his eyes become considerably bleared from not so much what he's looking at as what he's his mouth is taking into it while he is looking at it and as a result the world becomes greatly different I think also it might not be amiss to remember that in the previous point that we discussed could man be drunk forever Houseman uses the same image of drunkenness although we saw in that poem that he thought that there might be several different type of drunkenness other than drunkenness on liquor or beer and I'll roll here he uses exactly the same image I think perhaps we should keep in mind that perhaps the same observations apply to drunkenness on love and drunkenness on fights I think the poet turns a very neat trick on his critic critic is saying I want the world described in Pleasant terms Houseman said I'm very well take two ale and then Houseman proceeds to describe the circumstances in which the world appears pleasant to the drunkard well he doesn't know where he left his necktie being carried home he rolls in the mud and he wakes up with a hangover he gives a rather sordid description of the drunkard and he applies it to the man perhaps not particularly not especially the drunkard but the man who wants to deceive himself man who wants to see the world as well everything's well with the world and every day and every day I'm getting better and better let's have positive thoughts must be encouraging even though it isn't true and in the words Ludlow fair we have the reminder that this is an older England perhaps even when that England that AE Housman lived in that is being talked about it is helpful to remember this in noticing that Houseman writes in a kind of ballad rhythm his work is very similar to the ballad which most of us are familiar with in the form of poems that are composed by word of mouth that are somewhat jingling that have rhymes in them that are fairly straightforward although not all lines do rhyme and that tell about the needs and desires of common people here we have the kind of lad who would live in the country and who would only know joy and dancing and drinking as these things were to be found at the fair somewhat distant from his farm home I think it's interesting that in these first two stanzas actually we have simply a much fuller development of the idea that we've already encountered in could men be drunk forever he tells us that the trouble with taking two drank as a means of escape is in his own words the mischief is that twill not last that although it might be very pleasant to forget about our troubles by going to let alone drinking carrying quarts and pints of Ludlow beer home with us lying down in lovely muck he reminds us that when we do awaken we will see the morning sky in Haussmann's words hi hold the tail was all a lie the world it was the old world yet I was I my things were wet that is he's reminding us as he did in good man be drunk forever that we can't stay drunk forever that we have to sober up sometime and that when we do sober up we have the same problems that we're facing us before our drunken spree began now the next stanza presents a kind of didactic moralizing statement on the problem that is expressed in the earlier two stanzas Terence continuing says therefore since the world has still much good but much less good than ill and while the Sun and Moon in door locks a chat but troubles sure I'd face it as a wise man would and trained for ill and not for good tis true the stuff I bring for sale is not so brisk a Brewers al out of his den that scored the hand I run it in a weary land but take it if the smack is sour the better for the embittered our it should do good to heart and head when your soul is in my soul stead and I will friend you if I may in the dark and cloudy day in this stanza then hustling begins to give us the solution to the problem which he has posed in the first two stanzas a problem which was the subject of could man be drunk forever that is if drunkenness then is not a satisfactory solution to our troubles what is and here a Houseman says that the only lasting solution to our problem is to face the fact realistically that the world that we live in is not perfect and that although there is a chance that we might have good luck the one thing that we can count on for sure is trouble and therefore Houseman says we should realistically face this fact and prepare for trouble since we know that it is the one inevitable thing that we can expect in this life there's one section here that might give someone some trouble out of a stem that scored the hand I run it in a weary land what is he bringing in there this is a very interesting statement which is one of my favorites for an expression by the poet his definition of poetry and what the act of poetic creation is he is talking remember in this about the problem of distilling ale and drinking ale and beer here he compared the act of creation by the poet as a kind of pressing process like that of pressing grapes or grain for beer however here he ring the stem that is the stem of life with his hands it's a thorny stem the stem of life and it cuts his hands life is extremely painful to Houseman remember and in going through life and in living life in experiencing life he goes through a great deal of pain and the implication is that he is going through his this pain on the behalf of his readers the implication is almost that Houseman stays sober in order that he will best experience life so that he can best pass on his lessons in it to his readers out of a stem that scored the hand I run it in a weary land the weary land the weary world about him which knows so much trouble but here he is busy pressing the distillation of poetry the harsh bitter distillation of poetry out of the thorny stem of life in a word then the stem out of which Houseman is pressing this stuff which he has to offer is the stem of experience isn't it the stem of experience which according to the cliche is a good teacher but which is a very severe teacher and which will leave marks on one who attends that school it is interesting to notice in the line but take it if the smack is sour that again he uses a somewhat old word a somewhat archaic word this goes along with his valid form and with his habit of writing for or writing as if he were a member of a society of an older day we had in could man be drunk forever the word leaf youth which is still around to some extent in our language as just as leaf but which many of us perhaps think should really be just as leave here the word smacked which perhaps some was know from the German as the word Schmeck meaning taste here it becomes smack well exactly what is it that he is offering to us which he says has a sour smack well I think he's going to tell the truth now you see where he's describing the world as it is not it not as the world is not and they said you saying the world is not a pleasant place to live in of course that point we can quarrel with his description he's simply saying that my description of the world matches the world as it is then in effect what he's what he is offering to us is his poetry his poetry which he says may not be the most cheerful poetry in the world it may have a sour taste to it but nevertheless it will prepare you for the trouble troubles which you will inevitably meet with in your life and in this way house and then is saying that this poetry will do good to your heart and head when your soul is in my soul instead that is Houseman learn these bitter lessons through experience and he is offering the leader this poetry which he says will comfort him when the leaders troubles for down upon the last stanza now is a kind of parable exemplifying the words spoken in the third stanza which read I'd face it as a wise man would and trained for ill and not for good and now we have the stories of the man authorities who faced the difficulty the difficulties of life as a wise man would there was a king reigned in the East there when Kings will sit to feast they get their fill before they think with poisoned meat and poison drink he gathered all that springs to birth from the many venom dearth first a little thence two more he sampled all her killing store and easy smiling season sound sat the kings when health's went round they put arsenic in his meat and stared aghast to watch him eat they poured Strickland in his cup and shocked to see him drink it up they shook they stared as whites their shirt them it was their poison hurt I tell the tale that I heard cold Mithra data's he died old dr. Shepherd could you tell us what the relevance of this anecdote that carrots tells us is this anecdote is used as evidence to support to the fourth point saying that if you adjust to the world as it is then you will be conditioned to accept what happened you will be able to withstand what happens if you are going to be conditioned to the world as it's not then you will be in no position to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune yes another interesting idea that I find in the line them it was their poison hurt is the idea that if a man does manage to condition himself so that he can accept his troubles philosophically and not go to pieces and give way to despair he has in a sense risen superior to his misfortunes just as Mithridates was superior to those who tried to hurt him and just as they succeeded only in hurting themselves so a man who can accept troubles philosophically without giving way to despair has triumphed over his misfortunes there is also the implication that poetry is a kind of antidote to the poisons of life which one takes in advance and that if one takes poetry and reads poetry when life comes in with the great difficulties he will be able to bear up under them because the poem can give him the poisons of life a little at a time so that when difficulties come he can bear them and then like Mithra data's die old you

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