Analysis Of The Main Message In To An Athlete Dying Young

This poem was written by Alfred Edward Housman (A.E. Housman), who is a scholar and a poet. It was first published in 1896 in A Shropshire Lad (collection of 63 poems by Housman). This poem deals with an early death of an athlete who once won a race in hopes to earn the respect of his family members back home. This then lead to a drop in a drop off of popularity. The poem is written in 7 quatrains with a basic rhyme scheme in which it rhymes every two lines throughout the poem.

In this little roller coaster of a poem by A.E. Housman, he uses a theme of a young athlete that really allows the reader to really see the athletes glories and his accomplishments and has a big shift in how his life changes. For example, on line 10 where it says that if you have fame and glory it is not welcomed there and he shouldn’t stay. Also I found an alliteration, for example in the first stanza it links 'chaired' with the word 'cheering.' Here, the speaker is remembering a memory in which the townspeople carried the athlete to a victory in a race through the streets. The alliteration connects the words through sound to reinforce that they are related in meaning too. Also, line 5 uses alliteration in the phrase 'road all runners come.' The two rr’s are separated by just one syllable, making the letter sound strong. In line 13, 'shady' and 'shut' alliterate. This is where the speaker is talking about the athlete's eyes, that are now closed in death. Both words are associated with darkness, and it is weird that there is a pair of matching sounds that could perhaps represent the two closed eyes. There are many more examples of alliteration throughout the rest of the poem. Alliteration helps the readers' focus on a particular section of the text. Alliterative sounds help to create rhythm and different moods and can have particular hints about the poem. Many of the words in the poem are used for a specific reason, but the poet's use of alliteration is so effective that a reader can still apply meaning, even without knowing the actual definition of the words.

In the poem “To an Athlete Dying Young,” Housman uses imagery to show the heartbreak of victory and death. Housman uses the image of victory when saying that an athlete “won your town the race” and he was a “smart lad to slip” away from life and maintain his fame around the town. Housman then uses the image of death again when he is describing the athlete’s cemetery on which he states “townsman of a stiller town.” Housman then uses various words having to do with a burial. He also uses the image of a young athlete dying but being remembered and well thought of by the people back home. The goal of imagery is not to dominate your poetic thoughts, it is aiming to add a little mix and help direct the way of your thoughts, which of course, might be crazy to your immediate senses. Imagery is a type of figurative language which means when you use a word or phrase that does not mean the literal meaning. The poet will use words to create images in our heads that help us to translate the poem in the way he sees it. They can use it to paint a background or help make the center of a poem around an image. Imagery can be a powerful tool when used the correct way. Imagery helps to create a series of different visualizations of one's mind while they are reading the poem to give them different looks on the topic.

Poetry is a form of literature that may be interpreted multiple ways, depending on how the reader may look upon it. “To An Athlete Dying Young” by Alfred Edward Housman is a personally linked poem for many athletes, especially those who are a fan of idols who have passed young. Sean Taylor, Jose Fernandaz, Roberto Clemente, and Tyler Skaggs are just a short list of athletes who died young and left a legacy behind them. The poem helps prove a point to current and past athletes that the deaths of those they look up may be hard. But, because an athlete died young of age or early in their career it allows for their praises and glories of recent accomplishments to be carried throughout people’s memories. The theme in the first stanza highlights the admiration of a young athlete after death because people are able to remember them. While on the contrary, most athletes’ names die before they do, the poem shows the idea in the fifth stanza. Young or old, ill or healthy and athlete dying before their time has come, they leave a mark on the people that surround them. Their names will never be forgotten, they will only live on.  

16 August 2021
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