The Author A. E. Housman

A Shropshire Lad - XLIII - The Immortal Part


The Immortal Part 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.
    When I meet the morning beam,
    Or lay me down at night to dream,
    I hear my bones within me say,
    "Another night, another day."

    "When shall this slough of sense be cast,
    This dust of thoughts be laid at last,
    The man of flesh and soul be slain
    And the man of bone remain?"

    "This tongue that talks, these lungs that shout,
    These thews that hustle us about,
    This brain that fills the skull with schemes,
    And its humming hive of dreams,-"

    "These to-day are proud in power
    And lord it in their little hour:
    The immortal bones obey control
    Of dying flesh and dying soul."

    " 'Tis long till eve and morn are gone:
    Slow the endless night comes on,
    And late to fulness grows the birth
    That shall last as long as earth."

    "Wanderers eastward, wanderers west,
    Know you why you cannot rest?
    'Tis that every mother's son
    Travails with a skeleton."

    "Lie down in the bed of dust;
    Bear the fruit that bear you must;
    Bring the eternal seed to light,
    And morn is all the same as night."

    "Rest you so from trouble sore,
    Fear the heat o' the sun no more,
    Nor the snowing winter wild,
    Now you labour not with child."

    "Empty vessel, garment cast,
    We that wore you long shall last.
    -Another night, another day."
    So my bones within me say.

    Therefore they shall do my will
    To-day while I am master still,
    And flesh and soul, now both are strong,
    Shall hale the sullen slaves along,

    Before this fire of sense decay,
    This smoke of thought blow clean away,
    And leave with ancient night alone
    The stedfast and enduring bone.


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