To An Athlete Dying Young

A. E. 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.
 
About "To an Athlete Dying Young"

This poem first appeared in Housman's self-published collection A Shropshire Lad. The book didn't become popular until the second Boer War, when Housman's depictions of early death and the poems' nostalgia for country life struck a chord with his English audience.

Poems by This Author

A Shropshire Lad XL by A. E. Housman
A Shropshire Lad, II by A. E. Housman
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
A Shropshire Lad, XIII by A. E. Housman
When I was one-and-twenty
A Shropshire Lad, XXXVI by A. E. Housman
White in the moon the long road lies
He would not stay for me, and who can wonder by A. E. Housman
He would not stay for me, and who can wonder
Loveliest of Trees by A. E. Housman
Loveliests of trees, the cherry now
Oh stay at home, my lad, and plough by A. E. Housman
Oh stay at home, my lad, and plough
Oh Who Is That Young Sinner by A. E. Housman
Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists


Further Reading

Poems About Sports
A Boy Juggling a Soccer Ball
by Christopher Merrill
After Skate
by Carol Muske-Dukes
Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio
by James Wright
Baseball and Writing
by Marianne Moore
Casey at the Bat
by Ernest Lawrence Thayer
Days of Me
by Stuart Dischell
Fishing on the Susquehanna in July
by Billy Collins
Night Baseball
by Michael Blumenthal
Séance at Tennis
by Dana Goodyear
Tackle Football
by Dan Chiasson
The Bee
by James Dickey
The First Olympic Ode [excerpt]
by Pindar
The Trouble Ball [excerpt]
by Martín Espada
Train-Mates
by Witter Bynner