Sunday Poetry – A E Housman

I like the imagery in this poem of the young man’s aching hand, aching from all the hands he’s shaken in goodwill as he leaves his home for London. I wonder if he’ll look back in later years & think he lived up to his friends’ expectations?

As through the wild green hills of Wyre   
The train ran, changing sky and shire,   
And far behind, a fading crest,   
Low in the forsaken west   
Sank the high-reared head of Clee,           
My hand lay empty on my knee.   
Aching on my knee it lay:   
That morning half a shire away   
So many an honest fellow’s fist   
Had well-nigh wrung it from the wrist.           
Hand, said I, since now we part   
From fields and men we know by heart,   
For strangers’ faces, strangers’ lands,—   
Hand, you have held true fellows’ hands.   
Be clean then; rot before you do           
A thing they’d not believe of you.   
You and I must keep from shame   
In London streets the Shropshire name;   
On banks of Thames they must not say   
Severn breeds worse men than they;           
And friends abroad must bear in mind   
Friends at home they leave behind.   
Oh, I shall be stiff and cold   
When I forget you, hearts of gold;   
The land where I shall mind you not           
Is the land where all ’s forgot.   
And if my foot returns no more   
To Teme nor Corve nor Severn shore,   
Luck, my lads, be with you still   
By falling stream and standing hill,           
By chiming tower and whispering tree,   
Men that made a man of me.   
About your work in town and farm   
Still you’ll keep my head from harm,   
Still you’ll help me, hands that gave           
A grasp to friend me to the grave.

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