A Shropshire Lad, IX

A. E. Housman - 1859-1936
On moonlit heath and lonesome bank
    The sheep beside me graze;
And yon the gallows used to clank
    Fast by the four cross ways.

A careless shepherd once would keep
    The flock by moonlight there,
And high amongst the glimmering sheep
    The dead man stood on air.

They hang us now in Shrewsbury jail:
    The whistles blow forlorn,
And trains all night groan on the rail
    To men that die at morn.

There sleeps in Shrewsbury jail to-night,
    Or wakes, as may betide,
A better lad, if things went right,
    Than most that sleep outside.

And naked to the hangman’s noose
    The morning clocks will ring
A neck God made for other use
    Than strangling in a string.

And sharp the link of life will snap,
    And dead on air will stand
Heels that held up as straight a chap
    As treads upon the land.

So here I’ll watch the night and wait
    To see the morning shine,
When he will hear the stroke of eight
    And not the stroke of nine;

And wish my friend as sound a sleep
    As lads’ I did not know,
That shepherded the moonlit sheep
    A hundred years ago.

More by A. E. Housman

To An Athlete Dying Young

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 Shropshire Lad XL

Into my heart on air that kills  
  From yon far country blows:  
What are those blue remembered hills,  
  What spires, what farms are those?  
  
That is the land of lost content,
  I see it shining plain,  
The happy highways where I went  
  And cannot come again.

A Shropshire Lad, XIII

When I was one-and-twenty  
  I heard a wise man say,  
‘Give crowns and pounds and guineas  
  But not your heart away;  
  
Give pearls away and rubies
  But keep your fancy free.’  
But I was one-and-twenty,  
  No use to talk to me.  
  
When I was one-and-twenty  
  I heard him say again,
‘The heart out of the bosom  
  Was never given in vain;  
’Tis paid with sighs a plenty  
  And sold for endless rue.’  
And I am two-and-twenty,
  And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true.