Poems From "A Shropshire Lad" - IX



On moonlit heath and lonesome bank
The sheep beside me graze;
And yon the gallows used to clank
Fast by the four cross ways.
  
A careless shepherd once would keep
The flocks by moonlight there,
And high amongst the glimmering sheep
The dead man stood on air.
  
They hang us now in Shrewsbury jail:
The whistles blow forlorn,
And trains all night groan on the rail
To men that die at morn.
  
There sleeps in Shrewsbury jail to-night,
Or wakes, as may betide,
A better lad, if things went right,
Than most that sleep outside.
  
And naked to the hangman's noose
The morning clocks will ring
A neck God made for other use
Than strangling in a string.
  
And sharp the link of life will snap,
And dead on air will stand
Heels that held up as straight a chap
As treads upon the land.
  
So here I'll watch the night and wait
To see the morning shine,
When he will hear the stroke of eight
And not the stroke of nine;
  
And wish my friend as sound a sleep
As lads' I did not know,
That shepherded the moonlit sheep
A hundred years ago.
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

Modified on April 19, 2023

1:01 min read
11

Quick analysis:

Scheme ABAB CDCD EFEF GHGH IJIJ KLKL MNMN COCO
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 1,002
Words 202
Stanzas 8
Stanza Lengths 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4

Alfred Edward Housman

Alfred Edward Housman, usually known as A. E. Housman, was an English classical scholar and poet, best known to the general public for his cycle of poems A Shropshire Lad.  more…

All Alfred Edward Housman poems | Alfred Edward Housman Books

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