Poem: A. E. Housman, ‘XXXII’

From far, from eve and morning
And yon twelve-winded sky,
The stuff of life to knit me
Blew hither: here am I.

Now — for a breath I tarry
Nor yet disperse apart —
Take my hand quick and tell me,
What have you in your heart.

Speak now, and I will answer;
How shall I help you, say;
Ere to the wind’s twelve quarters
I take my endless way.

From A Shropshire Lad (1896)

I came across this poem in Ursula K Le Guin’s collection, The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, which takes its title from Housman’s verse.  It also resonates with how I’ve been feeling recently.

Poem: A. E Housman, ‘On Wenlock Edge’

On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble;
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

‘Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
When Uricon the city stood:
‘Tis the old wind in the old anger,
But then it threshed another wood.

Then, ’twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.

There, like the wind through woods in riot,
Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
Then ’twas the Roman, now ’tis I.

The gale, it plies the saplings double,
It blows so hard, ’twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
Are ashes under Uricon.

A. E. Housman (1859 – 1936) was a British classical scholar who only published two volumes of poetry during his life.  He was pretty reclusive and disliked attention, which may had something to do with his being homosexual in a period in which homosexual activities were illegal.  His poetry, especially in A Shropshire Lad, is pastoral and vigorous.

Shropshire is a beautiful county and reading this poem always makes me feel like I’m standing on top of a hill near Church Stretton.   I think I can pretty much recite it off by heart.