To An Athele Dying Young

1066 WORDS

To An Athele Dying Young

To an Athlete Dying Young by A. E. Housman is a piece about one of the most
tragic fates. That fate, of course, is dying at a young age. The first thing
that must be determined is who is telling the poem. I believe it is an older
man, one who had been a champion of sorts in his younger days. He seems to know
and understand what the athlete had felt and what would have become of him.

Lines eleven and twelve are good examples that show that the speaker has had
some experience with success. The lines read, "And early though the laurel
grows It withers quicker than a rose." To comprehend this, you must first know
what a laurel is. In ancient times, it was a type of decorative wreath made for
distinguished and honored people. The athlete never actually had one of these,
as the word laurel is only used to convey how proud the townspeople were of the
young athlete. Now that we know what a laurel is, we can now understand the full
effect of lines eleven and twelve. The speaker is perhaps saying that the glory
and praise of being a winner will fade very quickly, as it did with him. Through
the speaker’s thoughts, you start to get a glimpse of what his life may have
been since his youth: his own records broken, his skills diminished, his name
forgotten. Instead of being a poem about the death of the athlete, the poem
becomes a statement about the life of the speaker. In line eighteen, as one of"the lads who wore their honors out," the speaker seems to be also mourning
his own personal demise as a star athlete. Now that we have postulated who the
speaker is and all of his thoughts, we can now determine where the poem is
occurring. I believe it is taking place at a funeral or some sort of funeral
procession. The speaker seems to be observing the deceased athlete, so he must
be on display in some manner. Also, the poem is about an athlete in a small
town. The entire community is stricken with grief and is mourning the loss
together. This is evident in lines five and six: "Today, the road all runners
come, Shoulder-high we bring you home..." Line five shows us that everyone is
coming to the funeral, even his competitors and the other runners. Also, the use
of "we" is a signal of the entire community gathering to honor the young
lad. They were together in celebration of his victory and now are together in
mourning his death. The tone of To an Athlete Dying Young is definitely one that
many will remember after reading it. The first stanza tells about the past
accomplishments and celebrations of the athlete. "The time you won your town
the race" shows his success in the past. The tone starts out to be one of
pride for the athlete, but soon it changes to a very melancholy and solemn one.

The next three stanzas are very depressing and tell of a young man who’s

"Eyes the shady night has shut." The final stanzas are perhaps the most
dreary of all. They look to the future, a future of things undone, a life
unlived, and a young man dead too soon. The tone of the story is very poignant
and one that cannot easily be shaken from memory. The tone may be a very
depressing one, but the theme is even more piercing. The theme of To an Athlete

Dying Young is not apparent after one reading. I gave it much thought and have
come to one eerie conclusion; the speaker is viewing the premature death in a
positive light. To most, that is a terrible or even sinful thing to contemplate,
but it is indeed what the speaker is conveying. The theme of this poem is that
it is better to die as a young champion than to grow old and be forgotten by all
those who surpass your one-time greatness. He calls the dead athlete a "smart
lad" for dying as a champion and not remaining in the "fields where glory
does not stay." He then compares early death to growing old and being
forgotten in the lines "And silence sounds no worse than cheers After earth
has stopped the ears." That is a very powerful statement. The speaker honestly
believes that it is just as well to die young

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