Athlete Dying Young

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A. E. Housman’s poem “To an Athlete Dying Young” is a poem that depicts the coming of fame, and the death of an athlete. The speaker is remembering the life of the athlete, and is describing their death as a positive aspect of their life. He goes even farther than just describing their death by telling the reader why the death of an athlete is a positive part of their life. The elegy shows the relationship that the speaker might have had with the athlete, who has died and gone on to the grave. Housman’s use of metaphors, tone, and rhythm are all aspects that develop the theme of the troubles of becoming famous, and the eternity of fame that a life cut short brings.
In the first stanza the speaker is describing the scene of the race: “The time you won your town the race/ We chaired you through the market-place...” (Houseman 1-2). From this stanza we can infer
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In the first quatrain he uses the words “won.” “cheering,” and “shoulder-high” which are all words that indicate an image of winning. Winning carries connotations of cheers, congratulations, and prestige for an athlete. By winning this race the athlete gained their fame, and sees this event as an exciting, and positive time in their life. As stated before, the first shift occurs in the second stanza. The scene being illustrated in this quatrain is the burial of the accredited athlete. The talented young person could not overcome death, and is being laid at their “threshold” or grave. The last line says, “Townsman of a stiller town,” (Houseman 8). The “stiller town” is representative of the cemetery in which the athlete is being laid to rest. The tone of the poem begins in a cheerful attitude because the runner has just won the biggest race of his career, but because of this shift it very quickly takes a turn for the worst. As the poem continues it is obvious that the attitude becomes melancholy and gloomy as the speaker continues with their elegy of the
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