“And early though the laurel grows / It withers quicker than the rose.”

Readers might notice that on or around April 11 every year I post a poem like this one, in honor of someone I loved very much.


To an Athlete Dying YoungHousman

A. E. Housman

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears.

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.


 

(Rest in peace, EVC.)

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14 thoughts on ““And early though the laurel grows / It withers quicker than the rose.”

  1. I just went back and read your exquisite piece from two years ago. Although I haven’t experienced that kind of loss myself, my sister lost her husband early last year and we are all still reeling. I put A Grief Observed and many other bereavement-themed books in her hands. (Alas, she doesn’t read poetry.) Ann Hood is one of my favorites.

  2. Oh, Carolyn. This is beautiful. I am crying. From one woman who lost someone they loved too young (though not like this) to another: I am so sorry.

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