? Theme in Housman’s “To an Athlete Dying Young” By Genea Cannon Dr. A. Kantor English 1302 6 March 2009 “To an Athlete Dying Young” by A. E. Houseman 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.
Today, 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 honors 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-laureled head Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead, And find unwithered on its curls The garland briefer than a girl’s. Thesis and Outline Thesis: Housman uses visual imagery, double-meaning words, and life cycles to develop a theme of fading glory.
I. Visual Imagery A. PresenceB. Effect II. Double-meaning Words A. Presence B.
Effect III. Life Cycles A. Presence B. Effect Genea Cannon DC English 1302 Dr. A.
Kantor 3/6/09 Theme in Housman’s “To an Athlete Dying Young” In Alfred Edward Housman’s “To an Athlete Dying Young”, the theme of fading glory is evident throughout the piece. Knowing and comprehending the theme is important to understanding the poem. Housman uses visual imagery, double-meaning words, and life cycles to develop a theme of fading glory. Visual imagery is used in many ways to present the theme.
In the first stanza, the narrator is remembering the day that the runner won a race for his town.When Housman states that “Man and boy stood cheering by, And home we brought we brought you shoulder-high” (Housman Lines 3-4), it is obvious that the athlete was praised because “he was placed on an emotional/psychological pedestal as well as a physical one” (Napierkowski 230). Next, Housman states that Today, the road all runners come, Shoulder-high we bring you home, And set you at your threshold down, Townsman of a stiller town. (Lines 5-8) These lines vividly paint a picture of the athlete being carried high again, but this time the athlete in his own casket on the way to his grave.The saying “The road all runners come” expresses the “speaker’s awareness of the mortality of all people” (Napierkowski 230).
The story is continued in line 7 by burying the body at his “threshold”. “The ‘threshold’ may literally be the physical edges of a grave, but it could also refer to the boundary between earthly reality and the world of the dead” (231). This shows that all people will die and that this particular athlete was held high even though he was on the way to the grave, because he died young and was still remembered for what he had done in his life.Another use of imagery is shown in lines 11 and 12, when Housman says “And early though the laurel grows It withers quicker than the rose.
” This is showing that the athlete gets his fame early in life, but just like the laurels, his glory fades quickly. “The idea of a laurel leaf representing the brevity of physical beauty and strength is furthered by its comparison to the feminine and delicate rose, which grows early in the season and withers and dies quickly (but not as quickly as the laurel)” (231).In the last stanza of “To an Athlete Dying Young”, the image of the dead athlete having already passed through the threshold and existing in the world of the dead is presented. The athlete is wearing the victory wreath made of laurel.
The only difference in the wreath of laurel in the world of the dead and the wreath of laurel on earth is that the laurel does not ever fade in the world of the dead. “The garland is expressed as ‘unwithered,’ reiterating Housman’s theme of the permanent victory an early death might provide” (232).