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
A Shropshire Lad, V
Oh see how thick the goldcup flowers Are lying in field and lane, With dandelions to tell the hours That never are told again. Oh may I squire you round the meads And pick you posies gay? —’Twill do no harm to take my arm. ‘You may, young man, you may.’ Ah, spring was sent for lass and lad, ’Tis now the blood runs gold, And man and maid had best be glad Before the world is old. What flowers to-day may flower to-morrow, But never as good as new. —Suppose I wound my arm right round— ‘Tis true, young man, ’tis true.’ Some lads there are, ’tis shame to say, That only court to thieve, And once they bear the bloom away ’Tis little enough they leave. Then keep your heart for men like me And safe from trustless chaps. My love is true and all for you. ‘Perhaps, young man, perhaps.’ Oh, look in my eyes then, can you doubt? —Why, ’tis a mile from town. How green the grass is all about! We might as well sit down. —Ah, life, what is it but a flower? Why must true lovers sigh? Be kind, have pity, my own, my pretty,— ‘Good-bye, young man, good-bye.’