Housman, Alfred Edward (1859-1936), English poet and classical scholar. Housman was born in Fockbury, Worcestershire, and educated at the University of Oxford. After ten years as a civil servant, he was professor of Latin at University College, London (1892-1911) and at the University of Cambridge (1911-36). Considered one of the foremost classical scholars of his time, he wrote extensively for classical journals and prepared editions of the works of the Latin poets Juvenal, Lucan, and Manilius.
Housman is best known, however, as the author of a few slim volumes of poetry remarkable for their simplicity of diction, lyric beauty, and gentle, ironic pessimism. Set in the English countryside, the poems express the regrets and frustration of young men, especially soldiers. A favorite theme is fleeting youth, as in the famous poem “When I Was One and Twenty.” In technique the poems combine elements of the classical ode and the English ballad.
Housman’s first volume of poetry, A Shropshire Lad (1896), was slow in gaining popularity. By the time his second book, Last Poems (1922), was published, however, the individuality and quality of his work were widely appreciated, and the new volume was an immediate success. More Poems appeared in 1936 and Collected Poems in 1940.
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