Study Guide

To an Athlete Dying Young The Home

By A.E. Housman

The Home

A.E. has some fun (fun?) with the ideas of home and hometown. In the case of the young athlete, he describes death as pretty much like moving into a new house in a new town, only you don't have to carry any heavy stuff and your new town is, well, a graveyard. Let's not even talk about the new neighbors.

  • Line 1: In the poem's very first line, Housman tells us that the young athlete "won [his] town the race." It's no mistake that the notion of hometown makes an appearance right at the beginning of the poem, because Housman expands on the idea of home as the poem continues.
  • Line 4: At the end of the first stanza, the speaker recalls the athlete being carried home on the shoulders of the crowd. It's a very heroic, dramatic image: the athlete being delivered to his own doorstep on the shoulders of his adoring fans.
  • Lines 5-8: Stanza 2 mirrors the ideas of hometown and home from the first stanza with one big difference. We're talking about a funeral, a gravesite, and death in general. The first stanza is way more fun.
    The crowd brings the athlete home in stanza two, just like in stanza one. Both descriptions use the phrase "shoulder-high." The difference is that in stanza one the victorious athlete rides the shoulders of the celebrating crowd, and in stanza two the dead athlete's coffin is carried on the shoulders of his mourning fans and friends. Bummer.
    In stanza one, the athlete, "won [his] town the race." In stanza two, the mourners deliver the athlete to his new "home" in a "stiller town."
    On the upside, the athlete's new town sounds like a very peaceful place. On the downside, it's a graveyard.

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