“To an Athlete Dying Young”
Many people fear dying at a young age. Along with that come fears of not being able to fulfill all their dreams, not being able to live a prosperous life and take full advantage of their time on earth. It is a sad fate that is uncontrollable by any human, and to view a young and premature death in a positive light would be horrendous to many. However, Alfred Edward Housman does exactly that in his poem “To an Athlete Dying Young.” Housman implies in his poem that it is better to die in one’s prime rather than to live to a rip old age just to see all their accomplishments fade and become meaningless to everyone.
“To an Athlete Dying Young” takes place at a young champion runner’s funeral or possibly before the funeral at the memorial service. In the first stanza, the poem starts by the speaker reflecting on the time the champion runner won the town race, and he was greatly celebrated and carried home “shoulder-high.” The tone of the poem starts as one of pride and celebration in the remembrance of the great win, but the tone shifts quickly in the transition from the first stanza to the second to a more solemn and depressing tone.
In line five, “Today, the road all runners
Also, instead of "and home we brought you shoulder-high," (4) it becomes "we bring you home, and set you at your threshold down" (7) which symbolizes the runner"tms grave. In the first stanza the whole town was there to celebrate the young athlete, but now the whole town is there to mourn him. This stanza continues to insinuate that the athlete"tms status will never diminish in his mind. Through his death, the athlete"tms status as champion was set: "So set, before its echoes fade, The fleet foot on the sill of shade" (21). He even goes as far as calling the young athlete, who"tms "eyes the shady night has shut," (13) a "smart lad" (9) for leaving "fields where glory does not stay" (10) which is the mortal life. come," (5) the speaker is painting the picture of the funeral. The whole town, which is probably small, is in grief and mourning and in attendance to the funeral. He"tms saying that by dying, the young athlete will never have to see his accomplishments wither away and become forgotten. The speaker, who has already seemed to refer to himself as an athlete with past accomplishments, now is referring to himself saying that his past accomplishments have withered away. The speaker is reiterating his point in the fifth stanza by saying "now you will not swell the rout of lads that wore their honors out" (17). The speaker again shares a bit of his past history in the fifth stanza by referring to "lads that wore their honors out" (18).