Treasure Island

Alfred Edward Housman

(26 March 1859 – 30 April 1936 / Worcestershire)

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The Carpenter's Son


"Here the hangman stops his cart:
Now the best of friends must part.
Fare you well, for ill fare I:
Live, lads, and I will die.

"Oh, at home had I but stayed
'Prenticed to my father's trade,
Had I stuck to plane and adze,
I had not been lost, my lads.

"Then I might have built perhaps
Gallows-trees for other chaps,
Never dangled on my own,
Had I left but ill alone.

"Now, you see, they hang me high,
And the people passing by
Stop to shake their fists and curse;
So 'tis come from ill to worse.

"Here hang I, and right and left
Two poor fellows hang for theft:
All the same's the luck we prove,
Though the midmost hangs for love.

"Comrades all, that stand and gaze,
Walk henceforth in other ways;
See my neck and save your own:
Comrades all, leave ill alone.

"Make some day a decent end,
Shrewder fellows than your friend.
Fare you well, for ill fare I:
Live lads, and I will die."

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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Comments about this poem (The Carpenter's Son by Alfred Edward Housman )

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  • Carolina Jamies (9/26/2013 7:11:00 PM)

    nice poem but i suggest member poems should be used as poem of the day and not dead poets.thanks (Report) Reply

  • Babatunde Aremu (9/26/2013 4:04:00 AM)

    Biblical allusion at its best. A wonderful way of relating the experience of Jsus Christ on the Cross. (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Straw (9/26/2012 12:15:00 PM)

    This seems to be a secular version of the Crucifixion. It is not saying pick up your Cross and follow me, but keep your noses clean and you will not end up on a cross! (Report) Reply

  • Mishack Mchunu (9/26/2011 5:02:00 AM)

    'Here hang I, and right and left
    Two poor fellows hang for theft:
    All the same's the luck we prove,
    Though the midmost hangs for love.' M so in love with this poem, thank you! (Report) Reply

  • Mishack Mchunu (9/26/2011 5:01:00 AM)

    'Here hang I, and right and left
    Two poor fellows hang for theft:
    All the same's the luck we prove,
    Though the midmost hangs for love.' M so in love with this poem, thank you! (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh T A (9/26/2010 7:53:00 AM)

    Serious matter has been made into comic matter in this poem which is quite meaningful and interesting to read! (Report) Reply

  • Rishi Menon (9/26/2009 9:55:00 PM)

    One word: JESUS.
    Only a true poet can make simple statements with such synaptics.
    Lesser endowed like me write straight ones like The Star of Bethlehem. (Report) Reply

  • saltedpeanut blank (9/26/2009 5:22:00 PM)

    The love Housman was referring to was obviously Jesus Christ's love for the people and he was condemned for the works and miracles he performed when the high priests recognized it as, what to them, was an attempt to throw them out of power. The rest most people know the story Jesus was hung with two common thieves, one on his left and another on the right. The number 3 is also an important biblical reference of the holy trinity. This poem has overwhelming religious undertones. I can imagine Housman as either a pious man or a boozing, lecherous, sinner who sought atonement in his works. For that answer I will have to read his bio! :) (Report) Reply

  • Michael Harmon (9/26/2009 2:31:00 PM)

    Besides the obviousness of the title, the following quatrain seems to me to be an unequivocal allusion (and therefore religious reference) to the crucifixion of Christ:

    'Here hang I, and right and left
    Two poor fellows hang for theft:
    All the same's the luck we prove,
    Though the midmost hangs for love. (Report) Reply

  • Guybrush Threepwood (9/26/2009 9:21:00 AM)

    S'pose, you can't know exactly what he died for. But it is a cool poem-sort of feels like a drinking song to me, only instead of swinging a beer stein somebody is actually swinging. (Report) Reply

  • Joseph Poewhit (9/26/2009 5:46:00 AM)

    Interesting poem. Saying, best to stay in your own backyard. YET, bringing JESUS, a carpenter, into the picture. JESUS, went forth and built a house of teachings by his word. Further, sent by the Father, for this purpose. If JESUS, stayed in his backyard, his Fathers house of teaching would not have been built. Again, interesting poem. (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Straw (9/26/2009 5:42:00 AM)

    A secularist take on the crucifixion of Christ. Tightly written with the inspired rhyme of adze and lads. (Report) Reply

  • Robert Quilter (9/26/2008 2:53:00 PM)

    I think i need a new word, for poems that i can say i didn't exactly enjoy (feel good) but that i certainly appreciated e.g.what we have here.Indeed a cautionary tale, this poor fellow finds himself dangling between two thieves and his crime?
    Love and he did not leave ill alone! Nicely constructed, little heavy handed but then the guys about to be hanged, so who can blame him? and an adze is apparantly a carpenters tool. (Report) Reply

  • Kentucky Refugee (9/26/2007 1:49:00 PM)

    Adze is a woodworking tool.

    I like the poem. Is it possible to be condemned for a true love today? (Report) Reply

  • Marilyn Lott (9/26/2007 1:41:00 PM)

    I enjoyed this poem very much. The reader
    can go many ways with it. I choose Jesus. (Report) Reply

Read all 21 comments »

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