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Alfred Edward Housman

born: 26 March 1859
died: 30 April 1936
country: United Kingdom

Alfred Edward Housman was born at Fockbury, near Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, on 26 March 1859, the eldest of Sarah and Edward Housman’s seven children. The most significant event of his childhood was the death of his mother on his twelfth birthday. The anguish he felt, made infinitely deeper by the cruel coincidence, led him to doubt the Christian Revelation. Though he did not abandon the idea of a God, he could only think of Him as indifferent to the sufferings of the world. The gradual realization of his own homosexuality only deepened his pessimism. In a situation without rhyme or reason, all that was left for the man of honour was to endure and do what must be done, even though the doing would be in vain. It was this stoic philosophy that was to give his poems much of their appeal.

The facts of Housman’s life are simple enough. After taking a poor degree in Classics at St John’s College, Oxford (1882), he spent ten years (1882 to 1892) working as a civil servant in Her Majesty’s Patent Office. During this time a series of brilliant papers established him as an outstanding Classical scholar and in 1892 he was appointed Professor of Greek and Latin at University College, London. In 1911 he became Kennedy Professor of Latin at Cambridge University where, as a Fellow of Trinity College, he remained for the rest of his life. He died on 30 April 1936, famous both as a Classical scholar (particularly for his work on the poet Manilius) and as the author of A Shropshire Lad and Last Poems (1922). A third volume, More Poems, was garnered from his manuscripts and published posthumously in 1936.

That Housman’s poems are singularly apt for music is beyond question. Influenced by the powerful simplicities of Shakespeare’s songs, the clear, precise forms of the Border Ballads, and the melancholy irony of Heinrich Heine’s lyrics, they combine deeply-felt emotions with a classical elegance and simplicity of form and language. They are short and to the point; and, though subtle, the thought-patterns are never so impacted as to make it difficult for music to function at its own level. Next to Shakespeare and Robert Herrick they are one of the greatest gifts an English poet ever made to English composers. (A Shropshire Lad is recorded complete – in verse and song – on Hyperion CDD22044; musical settings are by Butterworth, Orr, Ireland, Moeran, Horder, Berkeley and Barber.)

from notes by Michael Hurd 1990

Albums

Housman: A Shropshire Lad
CDD220442CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1) Composers of World War I
No Exceptions No Exemptions
Studio Master: SIGCD401for the price of 1 — Download only NEWStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Barber: Songs
CDA67528
Bliss: A Knot of Riddles & other songs
CDA67188/92CDs Composers of World War I
Butterworth: A Shropshire Lad; Vaughan Williams: Songs of Travel
CDA67378Composers of World War I
Gibbs: Songs
CDA67337
Gurney: Ludlow and Teme & The Western Playland; Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge
CDH55187Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I
Gurney: Ludlow and Teme; Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge; Warlock: The Curlew
CKD296Download only
Herbert: Songs
CKD335Download only
Ireland: Songs
CDA67261/22CDs
Romantic Residues
CDA67725
Somervell: Maud & A Shropshire Lad
CDH55089Helios (Hyperion's budget label)Download currently discounted
Songs my father taught me
CDA67290
Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge; Gurney: Ludlow and Teme & The Western Playland
CDH55187Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I
Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge; Warlock: The Curlew; Gurney: Ludlow and Teme
CKD296Download only
Vaughan Williams: Songs
CDA67168
Vaughan Williams: Songs of Travel; Butterworth: A Shropshire Lad
CDA67378Composers of World War I
Warlock: The Curlew; Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge; Gurney: Ludlow and Teme
CKD296Download only
A Treasury of English Song
This album is not yet available for downloadHYP30Super-budget price sampler — Deleted
Hyperion monthly sampler – August 2014
FREE DOWNLOADHYP201408Download-only monthly sampler

Complete works available for download

SAMUEL BARBER (1910-1981))
Three Songs, Op 2Gerald Finley (baritone), Julius Drake (piano)
SIR ARTHUR BLISS (1891-1975))
'Tis time, I think, by Wenlock townToby Spence (tenor), Kathron Sturrock (piano)
When I was one-and-twentyHenry Herford (baritone), Kathron Sturrock (piano)
GEORGE BUTTERWORTH (1885-1916))
Bredon Hill and other songsChristopher Maltman (baritone), Roger Vignoles (piano)
Six Songs from A Shropshire LadAnthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)
Six Songs from A Shropshire LadChristopher Maltman (baritone), Roger Vignoles (piano)
CECIL ARMSTRONG GIBBS (1889-1960))
When I was one-and-twentyStephen Varcoe (baritone), Roger Vignoles (piano)
IVOR GURNEY (1890-1937))
Ludlow and TemeJames Gilchrist (tenor), Fitzwilliam String Quartet, Anna Tilbrook (piano)
Ludlow and TemeAdrian Thompson (tenor), Delmé Quartet, Iain Burnside (piano)
The Western PlaylandStephen Varcoe (baritone), Delmé Quartet, Iain Burnside (piano)
MURIEL HERBERT (1897-1984))
Loveliest of treesJames Gilchrist (tenor), David Owen Norris (piano)
MERVYN HORDER (1910-1998))
White in the moon the long road liesAnthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)
JOHN IRELAND (1879-1962))
Hawthorn TimeAnthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)
The heart's desireAnthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)
The heart's desireJohn Mark Ainsley (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)
ERNEST JOHN MOERAN (1894-1950))
Far in a western brooklandAnthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)
Oh fair enough are sky and plainAnthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)
C W ORR (1893-1976))
Into my heart an air that killsAnthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)
The Isle of PortlandAnthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)
This time of yearAnthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)
GRAHAM PEEL (1877-1937))
In summertime on BredonSir Thomas Allen (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
SIR ARTHUR SOMERVELL (1863-1937))
A Shropshire LadDavid Wilson-Johnson (baritone), David Owen Norris (piano)
RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958))
Along the FieldJohn Mark Ainsley (tenor), The Nash Ensemble
On Wenlock EdgeJames Gilchrist (tenor), Fitzwilliam String Quartet, Anna Tilbrook (piano)
On Wenlock EdgeAdrian Thompson (tenor), Delmé Quartet, Iain Burnside (piano)
On Wenlock EdgeJohn Mark Ainsley (tenor), The Nash Ensemble

Alphabetical listing of all musical works

1887  
A Cycle of Seven Songs from A Shropshire Lad (Orr)
A Shropshire Lad (Housman)
A Shropshire Lad (Somervell)
Along the field  
Along the Field (Vaughan Williams)
Along the field as we came by  
Along the field as we came by  
As through the wild green hills of Wyre  
Be still, my soul, be still  
Because I liked you better  
Bredon Hill  
Bredon Hill and other songs (Butterworth)
Bring, in this timeless grave to throw  
Clun  
Epilogue  
Fancy's Knell  
Far I hear the bugle blow  
Far in a western brookland  
Far in a western brookland (Moeran)
Farewell to barn and stack and tree  
Five Songs, Op 14 No 3 (Berkeley)
From Clee to heaven the beacon burns  
From far, from eve and morning  
From far, from eve and morning  
From far, from eve and morning  
Goal and wicket  
Golden friends  
Good-bye  
Hawthorn Time (Ireland)
He would not stay for me  
Here the hangman stops his cart  
High the vanes of Shrewsbury gleam  
Hughley Steeple  
I hoed and trenched and weeded  
If it chance your eye offend you  
If truth in hearts that perish  
In boyhood  
In my own shire, if I was sad  
In summertime on Bredon  
In summertime on Bredon  
In summertime on Bredon (Peel)
In the morning  
In valleys of springs and rivers  
In valleys of springs of rivers  
Into my heart an air that kills  
Into my heart an air that kills (Orr)
Is my team ploughing?  
Is my team ploughing?  
Is my team ploughing?  
It nods and curtseys and recovers  
Ladslove  
Leave your home behind, lad  
Loitering with a vacant eye  
Look not in my eyes  
Loveliest of trees  
Loveliest of Trees  
Loveliest of trees (Herbert)
Ludlow and Teme (Gurney)
Ludlow fair  
March  
March  
Now hollow fires burn out to black  
Oh fair enough are sky and plain  
Oh fair enough are sky and plain (Moeran)
Oh see how thick the goldcup flowers  
Oh see how thick the goldcup flowers  
Oh, sick I am to see you  
Oh, when I was in love with you  
Oh, when I was in love with you  
On moonlit heath and lonesome bank  
On the idle hill of summer  
On the idle hill of summer  
On Wenlock Edge  
On Wenlock Edge (Vaughan Williams)
On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble  
On your midnight pallet lying  
Once in the wind of morning  
Others, I am not the first  
Reveille  
Reveille  
Say, lad, have you things to do?  
Shot? so quick, so clean an ending?  
Six Songs from A Shropshire Lad (Butterworth)
Terence, this is stupid stuff  
The aspens  
The boys are up the woods with day  
The Carpenter's Son  
The Day of Battle  
The Encounter  
The far country  
The half-moon westers low  
The heart's desire (Ireland)
The Immortal Part  
The Isle of Portland (Orr)
The lad came to the door at night  
The lads in their hundreds  
The lads in their hundreds to Ludlow come in for the fair  
The land of lost content (Ireland)
The Lent Lily  
The Lent Lily  
The Merry Guide  
The new mistress  
The Recruit  
The sigh that heaves the grasses  
The star-filled seas are smooth tonight  
The street sounds to the soldiers' tread  
The sun and noon to higher air  
The sun at noon to higher air  
The time you won your town the race  
The True Lover  
The vain desire  
The vane on Hughley steeple  
The Welsh Marches  
The Western Playland (Gurney)
The winds out of the west land blow  
There pass the careless people  
Think no more, lad  
This time of year (Orr)
Three Songs for Jennie (Skempton)
Three Songs from A Shropshire Lad (Orr)
Three Songs, Op 2 (Barber)
'Tis spring; come out to ramble  
'Tis spring; come out to ramble  
'Tis time, I think, by Wenlock town  
'Tis time, I think, by Wenlock town  
'Tis time, I think, by Wenlock town (Bliss)
To an athlete dying young  
Twice a week  
Twice a week the winter through  
Wake, the silver dusk returning  
Wake: the silver dusk returning  
We'll to the woods no more  
We'll to the woods no more (Ireland)
Westward on the high-hilled plains  
When I came last to Ludlow  
When I meet the morning beam  
When I was one-and-twenty  
When I was one-and-twenty  
When I was one-and-twenty (Bliss)
When I was one-and-twenty (Gibbs)
When I watch the living meet  
When lads were home from labour  
When smoke stood up from Ludlow  
When smoke stood up from Ludlow  
When the lad for longing sighs  
White in the moon the long road lies (Horder)
With rue my heart is laden  
With rue my heart is laden  
With rue my heart is laden  
With rue my heart is laden  
You smile upon your friend today  
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