A Shropshire Lad LIII: The lad came to the door at night

By A. E. Housman 1859–1936
The lad came to the door at night,
    When lovers crown their vows,
And whistled soft and out of sight
    In shadow of the boughs.

‘I shall not vex you with my face
    Henceforth, my love, for aye;
So take me in your arms a space
    Before the east is grey.

‘When I from hence away am past
    I shall not find a bride,
And you shall be the first and last
    I ever lay beside.’

She heard and went and knew not why;
    Her heart to his she laid;
Light was the air beneath the sky
    But dark under the shade.

‘Oh do you breathe, lad, that your breast
    Seems not to rise and fall,
And here upon my bosom prest
    There beats no heart at all?’

‘Oh loud, my girl, it once would knock,
    You should have felt it then;
But since for you I stopped the clock
    It never goes again.’

‘Oh lad, what is it, lad, that drips
    Wet from your neck on mine?
What is it falling on my lips,
    My lad, that tastes of brine?’

‘Oh like enough ’tis blood, my dear,
    For when the knife has slit
The throat across from ear to ear
    ’Twill bleed because of it.’

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Poet A. E. Housman 1859–1936

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Love, Heartache & Loss

 A. E. Housman

Biography

At first glance nothing seems more unlikely than that the poet of the enormously popular A Shropshire Lad should be the classical scholar A. E. Housman. This Cambridge University professor of Latin left no doubt as to his priorities: the emendation of classical texts was both an intellectual search for the truth and his life's work; poetry was an emotional and physiological experience that began with a sensation in the pit of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Love, Heartache & Loss

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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