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, VII
When smoke stood up from Ludlow, And mist blew off from Teme, And blithe afield to ploughing Against the morning beam I strode beside my team, The blackbird in the coppice Looked out to see me stride, And hearkened as I whistled The trampling team beside, And fluted and replied: ‘Lie down, lie down, young yeoman; What use to rise and rise? Rise man a thousand mornings Yet down at last he lies, And then the man is wise.’ I heard the tune he sang me, And spied his yellow bill; I picked a stone and aimed it And threw it with a will: Then the bird was still. Then my soul within me Took up the blackbird’s strain, And still beside the horses Along the dewy lane It sang the song again: ‘Lie down, lie down, young yeoman; The sun moves always west; The road one treads to labour Will lead one home to rest, And that will be the best.’