A Shropshire Lad, IX

- 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

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.

A Shropshire Lad, XXXVI

White in the moon the long road lies,  
  The moon stands blank above;  
White in the moon the long road lies  
  That leads me from my love.  
  
Still hangs the hedge without a gust,
  Still, still the shadows stay:  
My feet upon the moonlit dust  
  Pursue the ceaseless way.  
  
The world is round, so travellers tell,  
  And straight though reach the track,  
Trudge on, trudge on, ’twill all be well,  
  The way will guide one back.  
  
But ere the circle homeward hies  
  Far, far must it remove:  
White in the moon the long road lies  
  That leads me from my love.