An Analysis of To an Athlete Dying Young by A.E.Housman

In the first stanza, Housman discusses the prestige of being a good athlete. Not many people accomplish great, memorable things in their prime and this athlete did just that. Housman goes on to state that when the athlete won they carried him in pride, We chaired you through the market place And home we brought you shoulder high. Then in the second stanza he describes how they carried him again in pride, but this time it was his/her casket, Shoulder high we bring you home. In the next four stanzas, the poet is implying that it is almost better that he/she died in their prime because then he wouldn t have to go through the hardship of seeing others take his/her place.

And the name died out before the man, says that a lot of athletes accomplish things but are forgotten about once they grow old. The athlete in this poem however will always be remembers for dying in his/her prime because they had the chance of being something better. The athlete had so much more to offer and his/her death deprived him/her of opportunities in the future. The last stanza of To an Athlete Dying Young is trying to say that because he/she died at the height of his/her career he/she will always be in your mind. His/her image will never fade because he/she has surpassed growing out of your mind. The athlete never came down from his/her high point. His/her life was also brief and unwithered because of his/her death, but it was straight to the point. The athlete accomplished something that they will always be remembered for because of this death.

E. Housman uses a lot of imagery in his poem to get his point across. Imagery helps you get a better feel for the mood by using a mental picture. By using imagery, it makes it easier to relate to the tragic situation. You can practically see some of the poet s descriptions like, We chaired you through the market place And we brought you home shoulder-high, giving you the impression that he/she is a very good athlete who is being praised for his/her accomplishment. And early though the laurel grows, It withers quicker than the rose, gives the image of the athlete s life compared to a fragile rose. It means you get your pride so promptly, but you know it you are forgotten about.

Laurel is used in wreathes that they award to athletes when they win while a rose is given at death. This symbolizes what this particular athlete went through. This is true for everyone, but for some people, their rose dies faster than others. Eyes the shady night has shut, Cannot see the record cut, gives you the image of the sorrow of the athlete dying and him/her not being able to experience things like seeing his/her record broken. And round that early-laureled head, And find unwithered on its curls, The garland briefer than a girl s, also gives you the image that this athlete was loved and that it is tragic he/she has passed on. The poet uses other imagery besides sight. You can also practically hear things like, Man and boy stood cheering by, So set, before its echoes fade. The use of this figurative language to represent objects, action, or ideas is one of the strongest ways that Housman gets his message across. Paper is one dimensional, but the poet has the ability to make it 3D using imagery.

Figures of speech are used to associate between objects that everyone can relate to and something in the poem. Comparisons like these can help clarify misinterpretations. Housman used metaphors in his poem to develop the concept of dying young even more. In the middle of the poem the turning point is accompanied by a metaphor. It states, And early through the laurel grows, It withers quicker

than the rose. The poet was trying to say that flowers can only be beautiful for so long until they start to wilt and die, just like athletes in the spotlight, they can only be good for so long, but the athlete in this poem checked out to early bypassing this. A winner s wreath is made of laurel. A wreath of laurel is conferred as a mark of honor and the wilting rose says that this honor and glory is fading. He compares the athlete s life to the life of a rose.

The poet s tone in To an Athlete Dying Young is extremely important. It is a sad tone, yet it is a celebration. He describes the rise to fame and the death in a sad, but true way. He doesn t portrait death as a grotesque thing, but hints at it in celebration. The poet even uses flowers, a warm, loving symbol to compare the athlete s life to death, And early through the laurel grows, It withers quicker than the rose. The tone in which Housman describes things is subtle, but has a profound impact. He says that the people carry his/her casket with pride, like they carried him/her when he/she won, but he never talks about the mourning of the people.

The poet uses a very profound rhyme scheme called a couplet. This means that two succeeding lines rhyme. Every stanza is made up of four lines, each with the first line rhyming with the second and the third rhyming with the fourth (AABB). The poet uses rhyming words like, race with place, by with high, come with home, down with town, away with stay, ect. The couplet enhances the sadness of the poem. The rhyming words almost an eerie repeat. The couplet theme makes you remember the rhyme, just like the way you are always reminded of this type of death. This also adds to the eerie tone of the poem.

The message of this poem is that death is something that happens to everyone whether they like it or not. In the case of this athlete, he/she passed before his/her time. He/she was in a prevailing time in his/her life and for that to be taken away was wrong. Good people don t deserve to die young. Dying young might have advantages, but they do not come close to life. For this athlete, it was better for him/her to die young because he/she would be able to die with the illusion that he/she is the best and that no one can take that from him/her.

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