The time you won your town the race We chaired you through the market-place; Man and boy stood cheering by, And home we brought you shoulder-high. To-day, the road all runners come, Shoulder-high we bring you home, And set you at your threshold down, Townsman of a stiller town. Smart lad, to slip betimes away From fields where glory does not stay, And early though the laurel grows It withers quicker than the rose. Eyes the shady night has shut Cannot see the record cut, And silence sounds no worse than cheers After earth has stopped the ears: Now you will not swell the rout Of lads that wore their honours out, Runners whom renown outran And the name died before the man. So set, before its echoes fade, The fleet foot on the sill of shade, And hold to the low lintel up The still-defended challenge-cup. And round that early-laurelled head Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead, And find unwithered on its curls The garland briefer than a girl's.
A. E. Housman - 1859-1936
Oh Who Is That Young Sinner
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.