Alfred Edward Housman

(26 March 1859 – 30 April 1936 / Worcestershire)

To An Athlete Dying Young - Poem by Alfred Edward Housman

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.

Form: Elegy

Comments about To An Athlete Dying Young by Alfred Edward Housman

  • Michael Walker (8/1/2019 9:16:00 PM)

    An elegy which still holds up; precise rhyme and meter, and a fine comparison between athletics and the
    end of life: ' Today, the road all runners come,
    Shoulder-high we bring you home'. Very moving to me.

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (6/7/2018 7:13:00 AM)

    Fak you all BITCHES (Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Sylvaonyema Uba (3/8/2017 6:00:00 PM)

    Well written poem

    0 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • (5/18/2016 7:22:00 AM)


    1 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Thabani Khumalo (6/16/2015 9:05:00 AM)

    I have a vision to write like this, only if god would bless me enough to.u (Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • Sossi Khachadourian (12/28/2014 11:24:00 AM)

    One of my favorites! (Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • Rajnish Manga (12/28/2014 12:35:00 AM)

    Two extremes of life and death have been described to bring home the factor of uncertainty. Great emotional poem. (Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • (12/27/2014 10:10:00 PM)

    Silence sounds no worse than cheers...... The ups and downs of life describes in the poem and it is having some spiritual contexts also.Highly accepted poem and likes it. (Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Goodness Tchibueze (12/28/2012 3:05:00 AM)

    All we labor for is a madman running after nothing.I love this! (Report)Reply

    6 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • (12/28/2010 1:04:00 AM)

    To me the poetry of AE Housman are a glory of the English letters. His innate astringent scepticism showed a side of the English cultural countenance normally kept shrouded by the Victorians. In his poems rhyme, rhythm, emotion, statements, and stylistic precision all dovetail into each other so seamlessly that the whole poem
    is converted into an object of beauty. He is the GOYA of the English poetry.

    7 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • (12/28/2009 5:49:00 PM)

    Think of the slave who rode in the chariot with the conquering hero and whispered words of wisdom into his ear, 'Beware the glory that is yours now will soon vanish! ' Today you're a hero! Tomorrow you're a Zero! Like a young girl whose beauty will eventually fade as she ages, so a young athlete dying young will outlive his brief day in the sun! No arthritis will ever slow him down! No sudden cardiac arrest will terminate his career so suddenly. I think it was General George Patton who longed to be killed in battle with the last bullet fired in the last war! A noble aspiration! (Report)Reply

    9 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • (12/28/2009 8:29:00 AM)

    Captures the moment of GLORY well, for the runner. (Report)Reply

    6 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • Ramesh T A (12/28/2009 1:27:00 AM)

    A wonderful tribute to a winning athlete died young! It may be very interesting to young sportsmen of the world! (Report)Reply

    6 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • (10/7/2009 10:31:00 AM)

    How could this warrior add to the afore mentioned commentaries? Yes, Out of Africa is one of the all-time greatest films. 'Under the veneer of armor of every Warrior, beats the Heart of a true Romantic.' HRL (Report)Reply

    8 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • (6/20/2006 2:57:00 PM)

    Surely the whole point is what was, not what could have been? Ultimately to have lost the challenge cup and for the laurel to have withered, as better, younger athletes usurp his position. An early death ensures this will never happen.

    Ditto the Meryl Streep ref. I too can never read this without hearing the halting Danish accent. Brilliant film, fantastic score, wonderful poetry!

    9 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • (12/29/2005 3:06:00 AM)

    You dont have it!
    but i dont have it too!
    a bitch does always lie,
    but one of my statements is true!

    7 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • (11/24/2005 9:30:00 PM)

    There's a scene in the movie Out Of Africa where this poem, or part of it, is read at the burial of Robert Redfords character. I thought it was one of the most beautiful tributes to a figure admired, not only an athlete. Of course, I cannot read it without hearing the Danish accent Meryl Streep used in the film, but what a voice to hear in your head when recalling a favorite poem. I owe this movie a debt of gratitude for making me aware of this fine poem. (Report)Reply

    9 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • (12/12/2004 1:42:00 AM)

    I think this is one of the most beautiful poems I have ever read.
    It is so virile yet so soft, so bold yet so shy, so promissory yet so fatal.
    We can all relate to the golden child athelete who we really never had a full chance to appreciate and savor him because an early death. Then those who are left will only remenber and think about what could have been.

    17 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
Read all 18 comments »

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Read poems about / on: smart, girl, home, silence, rose, night, time

Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

Famous Poems

  1. Still I Rise
    Maya Angelou
  2. The Road Not Taken
    Robert Frost
  3. If You Forget Me
    Pablo Neruda
  4. Dreams
    Langston Hughes
  5. Annabel Lee
    Edgar Allan Poe
  6. If
    Rudyard Kipling
  7. Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
    Robert Frost
  8. Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep
    Mary Elizabeth Frye
  9. I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You
    Pablo Neruda
  10. Television
    Roald Dahl
[Report Error]