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Poem Analysis

By lucy1211 Apr 12, 2015 829 Words
To An Athlete Dying Young
When time passes, things are forgotten. People who have achieved great things eventually drift away. But what if soon after their peak of glory they die. Would the memory of them and their glory live on longer? In the lryic poem "To an Athlete Dying Young" by A.E. Houseman the narrator shows how dying young and at the peak of your glory is better then living to be forgotten. The setting of the poem is in a town and cemetery in nineteenth-century England during the funeral and burial of a young athlete, a runner. The first stanza explains the victory of a boy winning a race in his town. Neighbors and admires of the athlete were so happy for him they carry him on their shoulders all the way home after the race. The theme of Housman’s poem is that glory is fleeting. The only way a person can capture it and make it last is to die young after achieving greatness. In this way, the person can live forever in the minds of people who remember him at the peak of his powers. Although Housman does not wish his readers to take this message literally, the cynicism in the poem suggests that life in later years is humdrum and wearisome. Consequently, he praises the young athlete for dying before his glory fades: “Smart lad, to slip betimes away / From fields where glory does not stay,” For example, in the last century, the early deaths of Amelia Earhart, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and singer Elvis Presley all seem to testify Housman’s thesis. By taking away their lives when they were still relatively young, death gave them eternal life in the minds of their admirers. Housman’s cynical view of life may have a certain appeal for young people unplugged with their life. These are the youths who sometimes act on their “death wishes” by taking dangerous risks in fast cars, by experimenting with drugs, or by committing acts of violence that end in suicide. Housman himself was troubled as a youth as a result of his shyness and the fact that his mother died when he was only twelve. At Oxford University, he was a brilliant student but failed his final examinations, and he ended up accepting a humdrum job as a civil servant.  Obviously, “To an Athlete Dying Young” is a thought-provoking poem. It makes the reader think about life and its meaning, and its beautiful imagery and rhyme scheme please the eye and the ear. And, though Housman is right when he says people tend to remember public figures of great promise who die young, he does not to mention that people also remember important men and women who lived well beyond middle age, including Augustus Caesar, Queen Victoria, Pablo Picasso, Albert Einstein and who will ever forget Mahatma Gandhi, the "father of modern India. Yes, dying an untimely and early death can earn headlines and television stories for the deceased person. But long-lasting fame depends more on compiling a record of accomplishments than on “going out in a blaze of glory.”

. The tone in this stanza was exciting and full of pride. It showed the reader how happy the runner and the townspeople were about the runners victory. In the second stanza it says, "Shoulder-high we bring you home" which is talking about the runners funeral . In this stanza the young runner died shortly after his victory. When the narrator says "And set you at your threshold down", I imagine the townsman placing the runners casket into the ground. In the third stanza the narrator says "Smart lad to slip betimes away from fields where glory does not stay" which basically says that it was good of him to die early because if he would have lived on the townspeople who once admired him would have soon forgotten him. The author uses personification when he says "fields where glory does not stay". The fourth stanza uses alteration for example "silence sounds" and in the sixth stanza "fleet foot". Housman used rhyme scheme to capture the reader. In the fourth and fifth stanza the narrator is saying the young runner does not know how fortunate he is to die young and he didn't wear out his honor like others. Also, the narrator is saying the runner will not be like the other victorious athletes who grew old and were forgotten about until they die and everyone then remembers them again. The narrator shows fame as being something that fades away over time. The runner died at the highlight of his life, Housman then explains how the people who admired him would have soon forgotten him. He captured his victory and he will be remember for what he had done just before he died. The narrator makes death seem like a good thing or an escape for things that could have happened.

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