Housman is (at different ages) both main characters of Tom Stoppards The Invention of Love.
In the play, one character offers a brief, humorous assessment of A Shropshire Lad.
A Shropshire Lad
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
Clay lies still, but bloods a rover;
Breaths a ware that will not keep.
Up, lad: when the journeys over
Therell be time enough to sleep.
When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me.
When I was one-and-twenty
I heard him say again,
The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.
And I am two-and-twenty,
And oh, tis true, tis true.
Oh, when I was in love with you,
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well I did behave.
And now the fancy passes by,
And nothing will remain,
And miles around theyll say that I
Am quite myself again.
Oh fair enough are sky and plain,
But I know fairer far:
Those are as beautiful again
That in the water are;
The pools and rivers wash so clean
The trees and clouds and air,
The like on earth was never seen,
And oh that I were there.
These are the thoughts I often think
As I stand gazing down
In act upon the cressy brink
To strip and dive and drown;
But in the golden-sanded brooks
And azure meres I spy
A silly lad that longs and looks
And wishes he were I.
From far, from eve and morning
And yon twelve-winded sky,
The stuff of life to knit me
Blew hither: here am I.
Nowfor a breath I tarry
Nor yet disperse apart
Take my hand quick and tell me,
What have you in your heart.
Speak now, and I will answer;
How shall I help you, say;
Ere to the winds twelve quarters
I take my endless way.
Yonder, lightening other loads,
The seasons range the country roads
But here in London streets I ken
No such helpmates, only men;
And these are not in plight to bear,
If they would, anothers care.
They have enough as tis: I see
In many an eye that measures me
The mortal sickness of a mind
Too unhappy to be kind.
Undone with misery, all they can
Is to hate their fellow man;
And till they drop they needs must still
Look at you and wish you ill.
Oh, tis jesting, dancing, drinking
Spins the heavy world around.
If young hearts were not so clever,
Oh, they would be young for ever:
Think no more; tis only thinking
Lays lads underground.
Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify Gods ways to man.
Ale, man, ales the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the worlds not.
And faith, tis pleasant till tis past:
The mischief is that twill not last.
Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Lucks a chance, but troubles sure,
Id face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.
Tis true the stuff I bring for sale
Is not so brisk a brew as ale:
Out of a stem that scored the hand
I wrung it in a weary land.
But take it: if the smack is sour,
The better for the embittered hour;
It should do good to heart and head
When your soul is in my souls stead;
And I will friend you, if I may,
In the dark and cloudy day.
I hoed and trenched and weeded,
And took the flowers to fair:
I brought them home unheeded;
The hue was not the wear.
So up and down I sow them
For lads like me to find,
When I shall lie below them,
A dead man out of mind.
text checked (see note) Apr 2005