Places: A Shropshire Lad

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1896

Type of work: Poetry

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Shropshire

*Shropshire. Shropshire Lad, AThe sheep farming county of Shropshire provides the backdrop for Housman’s poems and functions as the nurturing mother country of the personas depicted in his verses. While bucolic and peaceful in many respects, the harsher aspects of farm life, which include theft and fratricide, are also evoked. Many natural features of the landscape, which include rivers such as the Severn, Teme, and Clun, and mountains such as Bredon Hill, Wenlock Edge, and Titterstone Clee, are woven into the poems. These natural elements contribute to a feeling of homesickness and the longing for friends and youth, which permeate Housman’s work.


*Ludlow. Small Shropshire town. Ludlow, and to a lesser extent Shrewsbury, provide urban touches to Housman’s poems; but these were very small towns in 1896, when the collection was first published. Ludlow, a market town, is the site of fairs and taverns where Housman’s lads can drink beer and socialize with one another, thereby providing the congenial memories looked back on with fondness in the poetry.


*London. Great Britain’s capital city is depicted as a bustling metropolis with values different from those in the country. Here country lads may get lost, sometimes never returning to the solace of Shropshire.

Remote foreign lands

Remote foreign lands. Exotic places such as the Nile River, where Shropshire soldiers are serving the British Empire, are occasionally used to evoke homesickness for Shropshire.

BibliographyGraves, Richard Perceval. A. E. Housman: The Scholar-Poet. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1980. An outstanding critical biography, which connects Housman’s work as a Latin scholar and teacher with his poetry, most particularly with A Shropshire Lad.Leggett, B. J. Housman’s Land of Lost Content. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1970. A good overview of A Shropshire Lad with close readings of individual poems. Considers carefully the themes of change, loss, and the quest for permanence in Housman’s poetry. Includes an excellent bibliography.Leggett, B. J. The Poetic Art of A. E. Housman: Theory and Practice. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978. A reevaluation of Housman’s place in the canon of modern poetry. A Shropshire Lad is the core work discussed in evaluating Housman’s relationship to modern critics such as C. Day Lewis and T. S. Eliot. Housman’s own works of criticism are considered in the light of his poetry.Marlow, Norman. A. E. Housman, Scholar and Poet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1958. Considers influences on Housman’s poetry and focuses in particular on A Shropshire Lad. Examines the influence of Greek and Latin poetry, Shakespeare, the Bible, John Milton, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Heinrich Heine, Rudyard Kipling, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Andrew Lang, as well as folk influences such as border ballads and folk songs.Page, Norman. A. E. Housman: A Critical Biography. New York: Schocken Books, 1983. Discusses Housman’s poetry, especially A Shropshire Lad, as a special strain divorced from everyday life although influenced by it. Shows that Housman’s poetry was written and revised over long periods and therefore difficult to correlate with his life.
Categories: Places