1. Illustrate how all three of the Housman poems assigned deal with time and the passing of time.
In The Loveliest of Trees, Housman uses a cherry tree to relate the passage of time. He begins the poem in springtime when the cherry is in bloom, “wearing white for Eastertide.” The image of white and the blossoming tree give the reader of feeling of rejuvenation and rebirth, both feelings associated with spring.
The next stanza uses clever word play to describe the passing of decades and scores.
The last stanza puts the greater concept of a lifetime into perspective. He writes that fifty springs not enough to look at things in bloom. He ends with, “About the woodlands I will go to see the cherry hung with snow.” Housman has managed to deal with time on a couple levels: micro and macro. He begins his poem in spring (birth) and ends in winter (death). At the same time he is dealing with time periods of around fifty to seventy years. It is through his careful word play that he is able to do this.
The poem When I Was One-and-Twenty displays the author’s recognition of his young adult naïveté’. He starts the poem describing advice a man gave him when he was twenty one years of age. The man advises giving away gifts and such, but not one’s heart. He is telling the young man to be freely giving of his money and possessions, but not of his emotions; the wise man seems to think that a young man should not fall in love just yet. He says that prematurely giving one’s heart away is “paid with sighs a plenty and sold for endless rue.” The author ends by saying now that he is twenty-two he knows what the wise man said to be true. It is often said that hindsight is 20:20 and this poem exemplifies that.
To an Athlete Dying Young tells the brief story of a young man who won a town race and momentarily becomes the town’s hero. But after some time his name and his deeds fade in the minds of the people, and new runners have come along. The title is deceptive: the athlete did not physically die, but rather died in the minds of the people. Housman points out both the fickle nature of people and the erasing nature of time in his poem. The theme seems to be that the passage of time is the only thing that is constant in our world.
2. What does Yeats mean by Byzantium? How are the two poems on this subject related to each...