A. E. Housman: Poems Themes

A. E. Housman: Poems Themes

Farming/Rural Work

In Is My Team Ploughing, Housman presents a rural landscape and rural pastimes, alongside hints at farm labour. The very title of the poem reveals this theme, referring to an important part of rural farming, 'ploughing.' It is clear that the rural theme is dated, including references to older methods of farming, such as 'horses,' pulling the plough with a 'harness.' The adjective 'jingle,' repeated in the second stanza, give an immersive experience for the reader in this pastoral scene, as they experience the sights and sounds that Housman portrays.


The poem Is My Team Ploughing also presents the theme of friendship in two slightly different ways. The first is through a game of football. Describing 'the lads,' tht 'chase the leather,' and 'play heart and soul,' Housman creates a scene of community and playful unity. This aspect of friendship does involve some competition within the game itself, but shows the practical aspects of friendships and activity combined.

Later in the poem, Housman deals with friendship on a much deeper level. He asks '"Is my friend hearty,"' contrasting the state of heartiness against his own situation, being 'thin and pine.' His concern and connection with his friend is presented as extending even into death.


Housman presents the theme of death in the poem A Shropshire Lad 35: On the idle hill of summer through a contrast with the pastoral description of 'summer,' hills that are 'sleepy with the flow of streams,' and 'soldiers marching, all to die.' The pleasantries and sleepiness of the landscapes is disturbed with the rhythmic stomping of death foreshadowed.

This foreshadowing is fulfilled with the gruesome imagery of 'bleach the bones of comrades slain,' emphasized with alliteration, and the juxtaposing ideas of 'lovely lads,' and their description as 'dead and rotten.'

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