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Housman, A(lfred) E(dward)locked

  • Christopher Palmer
  •  and Stephen Banfield


(b Bromsgrove, Worcs., March 26, 1859; d Cambridge, April 30, 1936). English poet. His collection A Shropshire Lad (London, 1896) attracted an enormous following among composers of the English musical revival – largely because the discovery of folksong had served to foster awareness of the English landscape, and these poems were imbued with the spirit of the countryside of the west of England. There were various contributory factors: the preoccupations with the transience of beauty and with death, the one a favourite theme of Delius, the other associated with the Romantic movement and with the emotional aftermath of World War I. Composers were also drawn by Housman’s frankness, his homoeroticism, and the folksong simplicity of his language and metre, a formula of nonchalance generally masking a desperate agony. Few settings have been altogether successful in combining these elements. Many of Butterworth’s are too studiedly simple whereas Vaughan Williams, in ...

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