Irony In A. E. Housman’s Poems Essay

Poetry is a way for the author to communicate feelings, ideas, and stories to a reader. The poet A. E. Housman wrote the poems “When I Was One-And-Twenty” and “To An Athlete Dying Young”. In the poem “To An Athlete Dying Young” the poetic devices of repetition and irony are important to the poem. The poetic devices imagery and apostrophe are important to the poem, “When I Was One-And-Twenty”. The relationship that Housman had with his roommate, Moses Jackson, had a large influence on his poetry. A. E. Housman was born on March 26, 1859 in Fockbury, England (Bloom).

During the period that A. E. Housman was at Oxford, many events happened that affected his poetry. Housman was a homosexual, and he had feelings for his roommate, Moses Jackson (Bloom). Although Moses rejected Housman’s feelings, they still remained friends (Bloom). Being rejected put A. E. Housman into a state of reclusiveness and introversion (Bloom). For the rest of his life he had very few friends, due to his shy nature (Bloom). Because he was unhappy with the outcome of his relationship with Moses, he failed his exam Oxford (Bloom). After failing, he wrote a series of poems, called A Shropshire Lad (A. E. ).

He also worked in the Royal Patent Office after failing the exam (Bloom). He returned to Oxford and earned a “pass degree” (Bloom). He still continued to work as a civil servant for the next 10 years, but he still studied and read (Bloom). Then he went to work as a Professor of Latin at the University College, London (Bloom). He then went to work at Cambridge University (Bloom). He died October 30, 1936 from heart disease while he was working at Cambridge (Bloom). The poem “To An Athlete Dying Young” by A. E. Housman is about young athlete. The athlete is the star of his town. When he won a competition, there was a celebration for him.

The athlete dies at a young age and there is a funeral held for him. The theme of the poem is life and death and never-ending glory (To 232-233). The glory that athlete has won’t last forever if he is alive. When the athlete dies at young the town still praises him, so his legacy still lives on. The athlete also doesn’t have to see the fall of his own legacy (To 232-233). The poetic device of repetition is important to the poem “To An Athlete Dying Young”. It helps show the difference between life and death. The phrase “shoulder high” is repeated throughout the poem (Housman 4,6).

The first time it is used in line 4, “shoulder high” refers to life. There is a celebration being held for winning and the boy is being held “shoulder high” (To 230). The phrase is repeated again in line 6, but this time it represents death. This time the boy being carried “shoulder high” in casket, because he died (To 230-231). Another poetic device that is important to the poem “To An Athlete Dying Young” is irony. Irony also contributes to the theme and shows the difference between life and death. Irony is found within the last line from the poem, “The garland briefer than a girl’s” (Housman 28).

The word “garland” has two meanings in the phrase (Meyer 237). A “garland” can be laurels given to triumphant athletes or it can be a gathering of poetic verses, usually in tribute of someone’s life (Meyer 237). The irony between the meanings of the words, is that of life and death. The last line of the poems means that life withers away like a girls floral headwear, and death overtakes it (Meyer 237). The poem “When I Was One-And-Twenty” is written by A. E. Housman. It is about a 21 year old boy, who is given a lesson from a wise man to keep love over money.

Later the wise man gives him the lesson again, but the boy ignores him and he suffers. When the boy is 22 he learns that the lesson was true (When 268). The theme of the poem is the importance of love (Hochman 275). The boy doesn’t realize this, even after he was warned by the old man, and now he realizes the importance of love. The poetic device of imagery adds to the meaning of the theme (When 268). Rubies, money, jewels, and other valuable things are visualized by the poem. The images of these things show how valuable love is. The wise man said that love is more valuable than money, jewels, rubies, etc (Housman 2-5).

When the reader visualizes rubies, money, jewels, and pearls, they think about valuable they are, this helps the reader to understand how much love is really worth. Another poetic device that contributes to the theme is apostrophe (Housman 3-6, 11-14). The advice given by the wise man is directly quoted. This allows reader to hear the advice as the boy heard it. The advice given by the wise man describes the theme of the poem. Hearing the advice allows the reader to understand how important love is. The poems “When I Was One-And-Twenty” and “To An Athlete Dying Young” are both by A. E. Housman.

The poems are connected to A. E. Housman’s life and relationship with Moses Jackson. Both poems were written in collection of poems called “A Shropshire Lad” that Housman wrote around the time he failed his final exam in college (To)(When). He failed the exam because he was recovering from being rejected by his roommate, Moses Jackson (Bloom). After failing the exam, Housman thought that he may become a part of the working class, so he wrote about a working class hero in “To An Athlete Dying Young” (Robisch 240). Housman wrote about the importance of love in “When I Was One-And-Twenty” after he was rejected by Moses (Hochman 273).

Both poems are connected to Housman’s rejection from Moses Jackson. Poetic devices are important to the theme of the poems “When I Was One-And Twenty” and “To An Athlete Dying Young” by A. E. Housman. Irony and repetition are important to the poem “To An Athlete Dying Young”. Imagery and apostrophe are important to the poem “When I Was One-And-Twenty”. Moses Jackson had a large on these poems by A. E. Housman. Their relationship with each other connects these two poems. Poetry can show a lot about an author’s life. “To An Athlete Dying Young”