A Treasury of Great Poems: English and American

By Louis Untermeyer | Go to book overview

XV
The World of the Twentieth
Century

A. E. HOUSMAN
[1859-1936]

A PESSIMISM darker than Omar-FitzGerald's and even more intense than Hardy's was voiced by a cloistered scholar, a professor of Latin, who wrote blithely about murder and suicide, personal betrayal and cosmic injustice.

Alfred Edward Housman was born in a village in Worcestershire, near Shropshire, the county which became the scene of his poetry. Educated at St. John's College, Oxford, he failed in an important examination. The setback destroyed his hope of an immediate scholastic appointment at a large university and forced him to accept the work of a civil servant (actually a kind of clerkship) in the Patent Office. He worked ten years in this uncongenial position.

Early in youth Housman was drawn toward paganism. He was, he said, a deist at thirteen and an atheist before he was twenty-one. During his ten years' clerkship, he devoted every spare hour to a study of the classics, and in 1892 he was made professor of Latin at University College, London. He remained there twenty years. In 1911 he went to Cambridge University and taught and lectured there almost until the day of his death, April 30, 1936.

Housman's withdrawal from the world had become proverbial. His brother, Laurence Housman, explains what seemed to be an

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A Treasury of Great Poems: English and American
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • In Praise of Poetry vii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xlvii
  • I - The Bible 1
  • II - Foundations of the English Spirit 61
  • III - The Popular Ballad 123
  • IV - Early Songs of Unknown Authorship 163
  • V - Toward the Golden Age 175
  • VI - Elizabethan Songs of Unknown Authorship 253
  • VII - William Shakespeare [1564-1616] 271
  • VIII - Anatomy of the World 319
  • IX - Gallants, Puritans, and Divines 389
  • X - The Rise and Fall of Elegance 503
  • XI - Pure Vision, Pure Song 595
  • XII - The Spirit of Revolution and Romance 633
  • XIII - Faith, Doubt, and Democracy 777
  • XIV - Challenge to Tradition 889
  • XV - The World of the Twentieth Century 1023
  • Acknowledgments 1229
  • Sources of Reference 1233
  • Index 1235
  • Index of First Lines 1265
  • A Note about the Author *
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