The Author A. E. Housman

A Shropshire Lad - XXVIII - The Welsh Marches


The Welsh Marches 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.
    High the vanes of Shrewsbury gleam
    Islanded in Severn stream;
    The bridges from the steepled crest
    Cross the water east and west.

    The flag of morn in conqueror's state
    Enters at the English gate:
    The vanquished eve, as night prevails,
    Bleeds upon the road to Wales.

    Ages since the vanquished bled
    Round my mother's marriage-bed;
    There the ravens feasted far
    About the open house of war:

    When Severn down to Buildwas ran
    Coloured with the death of man,
    Couched upon her brother's grave
    The Saxon got me on the slave.

    The sound of fight is silent long
    That began the ancient wrong;
    Long the voice of tears is still
    That wept of old the endless ill.

    In my heart it has not died,
    The war that sleeps on Severn side;
    They cease not fighting, east and west,
    On the marches of my breast.

    Here the truceless armies yet
    Trample, rolled in blood and sweat;
    They kill and kill and never die;
    And I think that each is I.

    None will part us, none undo
    The knot that makes one flesh of two,
    Sick with hatred, sick with pain,
    Strangling-When shall we be slain?

    When shall I be dead and rid
    Of the wrong my father did?
    How long, how long, till spade and hearse
    Put to sleep my mother's curse?


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