Thursday, June 10, 2010

To An Athlete Dying Young

A friend on Facebook just posted a quiz question asking for the title of and who wrote the poem which is used in the film "Out of Africa" and begins:

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.

I remember this verse and its beautiful imagery (especially when thinking of Robert Redford as Denys Finch-Hatten) when the poem is read by Meryl Streep as his eulogy.

Anyway, I have always loved "To An Athlete Dying Young" by AE Houseman. It speaks so clearly to the waste of a young life when lost before it's time. The remaining verses follow:

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.


Alice said...

A. E. Houseman, a British author wrote that around the turn of the 20th century. He died sometime in the l930s.

spidennis said...

try shift return to get single line returns

Joni said...

Alice, Thanks for the information and response.

That worked and it is much better. Thanks for the suggestion.