Sunday Poetry – A E Housman

Even Housman’s humour has a melancholy edge to it. This is one of those poems when the dead speak to the living but this poor young man, lying in his grave, doesn’t get the reassurance that he’s looking for.

Is my team ploughing,   
  That I was used to drive   
And hear the harness jingle   
  When I was man alive?’   

Ay, the horses trample,           
  The harness jingles now;   
No change though you lie under   
  The land you used to plough.   

‘Is football playing   
  Along the river shore,           
With lads to chase the leather,   
  Now I stand up no more?’   

Ay, the ball is flying,   
  The lads play heart and soul;   
The goal stands up, the keeper           
  Stands up to keep the goal.   

‘Is my girl happy,   
  That I thought hard to leave,   
And has she tired of weeping   
  As she lies down at eve?’           

Ay, she lies down lightly,   
  She lies not down to weep:   
Your girl is well contented.   
  Be still, my lad, and sleep.   

‘Is my friend hearty,           
  Now I am thin and pine,   
And has he found to sleep in   
  A better bed than mine?’   

Yes, lad, I lie easy,   
  I lie as lads would choose;           
I cheer a dead man’s sweetheart,   
  Never ask me whose.

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