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Alfred Edward Housman

(26 March 1859 – 30 April 1936 / Worcestershire)

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Be Still, My Soul, Be Still


Be still, my soul, be still; the arms you bear are brittle,
Earth and high heaven are fixt of old and founded strong.
Think rather,-- call to thought, if now you grieve a little,
The days when we had rest, O soul, for they were long.

Men loved unkindness then, but lightless in the quarry
I slept and saw not; tears fell down, I did not mourn;
Sweat ran and blood sprang out and I was never sorry:
Then it was well with me, in days ere I was born.

Now, and I muse for why and never find the reason,
I pace the earth, and drink the air, and feel the sun.
Be still, be still, my soul; it is but for a season:
Let us endure an hour and see injustice done.

Ay, look: high heaven and earth ail from the prime foundation;
All thoughts to rive the heart are here, and all are vain:
Horror and scorn and hate and fear and indignation--
Oh why did I awake? when shall I sleep again?

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Stephen Loomes (9/26/2013 3:06:00 AM)

    Alfred Edward Housman, a scholar of great note, a man who felt so deeply, and on this page he wrote, of the surging tide of feeling, that hemmed him to the ground, ah, what a man was Housman, who lives on his renown. (Report) Reply

  • Pranab K Chakraborty (6/17/2012 2:19:00 AM)

    1] Let us endure an hour and see injustice done.
    2] Oh why did I awake? when shall I sleep again?
    3] Be still, my soul, be still; the arms you bear are brittle,
    Earth and high heaven are fixt of old and founded strong.

    Much perhaps to bag the coins for our journey. Nice put. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Pruchnicki (6/17/2010 3:40:00 PM)

    Some read with a grin and others with a grudge against all of the writers and poets down through the centuries of western literature and philosophy and yes, even science, by God! After the last century's display of horrors visited on innocents the world over by those who believed that 'the human condition gathers everyone regardless of race, gender, or creed (?) into its expansive bosom'! ! Seems to me that every tyrant who trod the stage in the 20th century expressed a creed that embraced all their victims in a last fatal embrace that left out Jesus or God but mentioned daily the secular creed we must live and die by! If I do not believe in the kind of secular humanism championed by some who post here, where is my right to say what I think and believe to be the essence of freedom? (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh T A (6/17/2010 8:02:00 AM)

    The poet believes perhaps patience pays rich dividend at the end! Let his hope help all! (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Straw (6/17/2010 5:42:00 AM)

    This is a horrible poem - its horror is in its foul premise that this earth is a foul place which we have to grin and bear before 'passing away into the arms of Jesus'. Why do these indubitably talented poets waste their substance on what is, after all, propaganda for a faith? If I do not believe that what Housman is saying is true, how can I have any interest in (apart from a technical one) in his poetry? The highest poetry describes the human condition, it gathers everyone, of whatever race, gender or creed into its bosom. (Report) Reply

    Pat Hulsey (6/30/2014 5:42:00 PM)

    A E Housman is beauty and passion expressed in his poems. Generic poems you want.
    Read and learn from
    everyone. If you only read from that generic that applies to every single person how will you learn?
    His unrequited love made available to him feelings that he expressed passionately. I find them moving.

  • Manonton Dalan (6/17/2010 4:19:00 AM)

    i read this poem with a grin on my face
    i keep still my heart when about to race
    there's no guarranty i would be please
    my acquired and nature decide it all
    oh! i wish to god i won't be acting fool (Report) Reply

  • Michael Pruchnicki (6/17/2009 1:33:00 PM)

    Just to clear up Straw's confusion about theology -
    'Earth and high heaven are fixt of old and founded strong' means that 'high heaven and earth ail from from the prime foundation', that is, from the very beginning the troubles that break the human heart have always been and always will be with human kind. That is the very nature of existence. We are all flawed creatures in an imperfect world full of 'horror and scorn and hate and fear and indignation', doomed to endure. This is NOT an adolescent whine as much as it is the comment of a Stoic philosopher (one should remain indifferent to the external world) - the speaker says life soon passes, because we live but for a season! (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Straw (6/17/2009 5:50:00 AM)

    A long, if poetic, adolescent (“everyone’s against me”) whinge which is not served by the risible “Then it was well with me, in days ere I was born.” - unless of course AEH believed that he and his soul were “alive” to what was happening outside the womb. If he did, then he contradicts this notion by the idea that he and his soul “slept and saw not”. And I would like to know how theologically he reconciles “Earth and high heaven are fixt of old and founded strong.” with “…high heaven and earth ail from the prime foundation…” (Report) Reply

  • Wendy Bureau (6/17/2008 12:10:00 PM)

    Very well written with a voice unmistakable. Good imagery and flow, my first read here on PoemHunter, and very much enjoyed. Write on Poet! (Report) Reply

  • Jade Leven (6/17/2007 4:22:00 PM)

    michelle is right goths love this stuff... however, i think this one also has a feeling of realization to it. it's not just despair. i like it. (Report) Reply

  • Dimitris(Jimmy) Psachos (6/17/2007 5:41:00 AM)

    Brings memories from a Poe poem, I think . Sad, profound and honest to his weary thoughts, it keeps an ancient aura to past glories and spectacles...or is it an uncertain future? (Report) Reply

Read all 17 comments »

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