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Alfred Edward Housman
( )

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Now hollow fires


Her strong enchantments failing
OH, when I was in love with you,
On the idle hill of summer
When I was one-and-twenty
Into my heart an air that kills
When I came last to Ludlow
Ho, everyone that thirsteth
The Isle of Portland
The sloe was lost in flower
He would not stay for me
Ask me no more
The Recruit
Oh, on my breast in days hereafter

Oh, on my breast in days hereafter
Light the earth should lie,
Such weight to bear is now the air
So heavy hangs the sky.

NOW hollow fires burn out to black,
And lights are guttering low:
Square your shoulders, lift your pack,
And leave your friends and go.

Oh never fear, man, noughts to dread,
Look not left nor right:
In all the endless road you tread
Theres nothing but the night.

Her strong enchantments failing,
Her towers of fear in wreck,
Her limbecks dried of poisons
And the knife at her neck,

The Queen of air and darkness
Begins to shrill and cry,
"O young man, O my slayer,
To-morrow you shall die."

O Queen of air and darkness,
I think 'tis truth you say,
And I shall die to-morrow;
But you will die to-day.


THESE, in the day when heaven was falling
The hour when earth's foundations fled,
Followed their mercenary calling,
And took their wages, and are dead.
Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood, and earth's foundations stay;
What God abandoned, these defended,
And saved the sum of things for pay.

OH, when I was in love with you,
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well did I behave.

And now the fancy passes by,
And miles around they ll say that I
And nothing will remain,
Am quite myself again.

On the idle hill of summer,
Sleepy with the flow of streams,
Far I hear the steady drummer
Drumming like a noise of dreams

Far and near and low and louder
On the roads of earth go by
Dear to friends and food for powder,
Soldiers marching, all to die.

East and west on fields forgotten
Bleach the bones of comrades slain,
Lovely lads and dead and rotten;
None that go return again.

Far the calling bugles hollow,
High the screaming life replies,
Gay the files of scarlet follow:
Woman bore me, I will rise.

WHEN I was one-and-twenty  
I heard a wise man say,  
Give crowns and pounds and guineas  
But not your heart away;  
Give pearls away and rubies  
But keep your fancy free.  
But I was one-and-twenty,  
No use to talk to me.  
When I was one-and-twenty  
I heard him say again,  
The heart out of the bosom  
Was never given in vain;  
Tis paid with sighs a plenty  
And sold for endless rue.  
And I am two-and-twenty,  
And oh, tis true, tis true.  

INTO my heart on air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

WHEN I came last to Ludlow
Amidst the moonlight pale,
Two friends kept step beside me,
Two honest lads and hale.

Now Dick lies long in the churchyard,
And Ned lies long in jail,
And I come home to Ludlow
Amidst the moonlight pale.


Ho, everyone that thirsteth
And hath the price to give,
Come to the stolen waters,
Drink and your soul shall live

Come to the stolen waters,
And leap the guarded pale,
And pull the flower in season
Before desire shall fail.

It shall not last for ever,
No more than earth and skies;
But he that drinks in season
Shall live before he dies.

June suns, you cannot store them
To warm the winter's cold,
The lad that hopes for heaven
Shall fill his mouth with mould.

THE star-filled seas are smooth to-night  
From France to England strown;  
Black towers above the Portland light  
The felon-quarried stone.  
On yonder island, not to rise,  
Never to stir forth free,  
Far from his folk a dead lad lies  
That once was friends with me.  
Lie you easy, dream you light,  
And sleep you fast for aye;  
And luckier may you find the night  
Than ever you found the day.

The sloe was lost in flower,
The April elm was dim;
That was the lover's hour,
The hour for lies and him.

If thorns are all the bower,
If north winds freeze the fir,
Why, 'tis another hour,
The hour for truth and her.

He would not stay for me; and who can wonder?
He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.
I shook his hand and tore my heart in sunder
And went with half my life about my ways.


Ask me no more for fear I should reply;
Others have held their tongues, and so can I;
Hundreds have died, and told no tale before:
Ask me no more, for fear I should reply -

How one was true and one was clean of stain
And one was braver than the heavens are high,
And one was fond of me: and all are slain.
Ask me no more, for fear I should reply.

, ,


Leave your home behind, lad,
And reach your friends your hand,
And go, and luck go with you
While Ludlow tower shall stand.
Oh, come you home of Sunday
When Ludlow streets are still
And Ludlow bells are calling
To farm and lane and mill,
Or come you home of Monday
When Ludlow market hums
And Ludlow chimes are playing
"The conquering hero comes,"
Come you home a hero,
Or come not home at all,
The lads you leave will mind you
Till Ludlow tower shall fall.
And you will list the bugle
That blows in lands of morn,
And make the foes of England
Be sorry you were born.
And you till trump of doomsday
On lands of morn may lie,
And make the hearts of comrades
Be heavy where you die.
Leave your home behind you,
Your friends by field and town:
Oh, town and field will mind you
Till Ludlow tower is down.

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2000 Elena and Yacov Feldman