Sunday, December 20, 2009


Parodies of Housman

Thanks to Alan Knell for an interesting email in response to Kingsley Amis on A.E. Housman, and especially for drawing my attention to Hugh Kingsmill's parody of Housman:
What - still alive at twenty-two,
A clean, upstanding chap like you?
Sure, if your throat is hard to slit,
Slit your girl's, and swing for it.

Like enough you won't be glad,
When they come to hang you, lad:
But bacon's not the only thing
That's cured by hanging from a string.

So, when the spilt ink of the night
Spreads o'er the blotting-pad of light,
Lads whose job is still to do
Shall whet their knives, and think of you.
In a letter to his brother (September 19, 1925), Housman called Kingsmill's parody "the best I have seen."

Other parodies include Ezra Pound, Mr. Housman's Message:
O woe, woe,
People are born and die,
We also shall be dead pretty soon
Therefore let us act as if we were dead already.

The bird sits on the hawthorn tree
But he dies also, presently.
Some lads get hung, and some get shot.
Woeful is this human lot.
        Woe! woe, etcetera....

London is a woeful place,
Shropshire is much pleasanter.
Then let us smile a little space
Upon fond nature's morbid grace,
        Oh, Woe, woe, woe, etcetera....
and this one by Humbert Wolfe:
When lads have done with labour
  In Shropshire, one will cry
"Let's go and kill a neighbour,"
  And t'other answers "Aye!"
So this one kills his cousins,
  And that one kills his dad;
And, as they hang by dozens
  At Ludlow, lad by lad,
Each of them one-and-twenty,
  All of them murderers,
The hangman mutters: "Plenty
  Even for Housman's verse."

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