Eyes the shady night has shut Cannot see the record cut, And silence sounds no worse than cheers After earth has stopped the ears.
This speaker sure is a positive guy. He just keeps on looking on the bright side of this young athlete's death.
"Shady night" has closed the athlete's eyes. Housman is using night as a metaphor for death here.
Sounds pretty bad, right? But the speaker finds the silver lining yet again. He figures that, with eyes closed in death, the athlete will never have to see his records broken and feel sad and disappointed. Okay. That could be a benefit—but Shmoop would opt for feeling the disappointment rather than being dead.
The next two lines offer another reason why it's good that the athlete died young.
An athlete who ages and loses his edge will eventually hear more boos than cheers. Finally, the aging athlete won't be able to compete and will never hear the roar of the crowd again. He will live in relative silence.
So our ever-positive speaker suggests that being dead, with his ears full of dirt, this athlete isn't ever going to hear those boos.
Plus, being dead and all, the silence won't bother the young athlete in the same way it might bother the living athlete who longs for the cheers after they've stopped. Looks like a win-win, right?