Other men’s flowers : the Lent Lily, by A.E. Housman

As usual at this time of year, your correspondent is enduring a vexatious time at work, and can only proffer another small bunch of other men’s flowers.  In this case the flowers are lent lilies (or daffodils) and the poet A.E. Housman. 

I always very much want to like Housman‘s poems and usually succeed when I read them individually.  Read too many of them at once and the consistency of feeling and style topples over into self parody (and Housman must have been as often parodied as any poet).  He seems to have discovered an attitude (I won’t say a pose) that he (oddly) found comfortable early in life – life is brief, love is fleeting, flowers die – and never seems to have made much effort, either in life or in his verse, to risk the confusion of emotional engagements that might have disturbed this equilibrium.  At least, in this one, it’s only the daffodils that die – in A Shropshire Lad the body count must rival The Terminator.

He was also (according to Frank Kermode*) a very fastidious bachelor, who refused to allow his neighbour Ludwig Wittgenstein to use his private lavatory – though whether this is significant in some way I can’t say.

If my lent lilies are planning to die on Easter Day, by the way, they’d better get a move on and bloom.


 The Lent Lily

by A.E. Housman


‘Tis spring; come out to ramble

The hilly brakes around,

For under thorn and bramble

About the hollow ground

The primroses are found.


And here’s the windflower chilly

With all the winds at play,

And there’s the Lenten lily

That has not long to stay

And dies on Easter day.


And since till girls go maying

You find the primose still,

And find the windflower playing

With every wind at will,

But not the daffodil,


Bring baskets now, and sally

Upon the spring’s array,

And bear from hill and valley

The daffodil away

That dies on Easter day.



Some Lent Lilies yesterday, not in my back yard

*Nothing for ever and ever

2 thoughts on “Other men’s flowers : the Lent Lily, by A.E. Housman

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