Terence, this is stupid stuff
by A.E. Housman
Terence, this is stupid stuff Literature and Writing Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Pretty friendship 'tis to rhyme
Your friends to death before their time (11-12)
The first speaker, whose name we never learn, really has fun teasing Terence. Not only does he think his sad verse is annoying, he claims that it's going to kill him. We think the opening of this poem gives a really great feeling for the kind of talk that goes on between friends in a bar. They're talking about the pros and cons of serious literature, but they do it in a way that fits the poem's setting.
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man. (21-22)
We think this is kind of a funny idea (but we're suckers for poetry jokes). Basically Terence is saying that if you want to understand God's mysterious actions, you'd be better off drinking beer than reading Milton. He might also be implying that most folks can't begin to understand Milton, and would be better off getting drunk instead. That slightly snobby side of Terence is mostly hidden away, but we get a little glimpse of it now and then.
'Tis true, the stuff I bring for sale
Is not so brisk a brew as ale: (49-50)
One of Terence's strategies for defending sad poetry is to set up a playful little competition between poems and beer. At first, he lets beer win, acknowledging that getting drunk might be more exciting than reading something sad and serious. In the end, though, this turns out to be just a temporary strategy. It's literature (of course) that has the real lasting power.