The Author A. E. Housman

A Shropshire Lad - LIII - The True Lover


The True Love was published in Housman's collection of 63 poems in A Shropshire Lad (1896). Housman self-published the book after being turned down by several publishers. Themes tend to focus on unrequited love, pastoral beauty, fleeting youth, grief, death, and patriotism.
    The lad came to the door at night,
    When lovers crown their vows,
    And whistled soft and out of sight
    In shadow of the boughs.

    "I shall not vex you with my face
    Henceforth, my love, for aye;
    So take me in your arms a space
    Before the east is grey."

    "When I from hence away am past
    I shall not find a bride,
    And you shall be the first and last
    I ever lay beside."

    She heard and went and knew not why;
    Her heart to his she laid;
    Light was the air beneath the sky
    But dark under the shade.

    "Oh do you breathe, lad, that your breast
    Seems not to rise and fall,
    And here upon my bosom prest
    There beats no heart at all?"

    "Oh loud, my girl, it once would knock,
    You should have felt it then;
    But since for you I stopped the clock
    It never goes again."

    "Oh lad, what is it, lad, that drips
    Wet from your neck on mine?
    What is it falling on my lips,
    My lad, that tastes of brine?"

    "Oh like enough 'tis blood, my dear,
    For when the knife has slit
    The throat across from ear to ear
    'Twill bleed because of it."

    Under the stars the air was light
    But dark below the boughs,
    The still air of the speechless night,
    When lovers crown their vows.


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