Because I Liked You Better by A. E. Housman

‘Because I Liked You Better’ by A. E. Housman is a love poem that taps on the theme of unrequited love. Like his “A Shropshire Lad” poems, it also touches on the theme of death.

Housman’s ‘Because I Liked You Better’ deals, like most of his other poems, with the theme of unrequited love. In this short and simple poem, the speaker first describes the relationship and then he informs readers how it ended. The end is tragic. Still, it has something to add to the meaning of this piece. In the end, the death of the speaker is undoubtedly a heartbroken tribute to his lady love. To keep his word, he fearlessly chose a path that ends in nowhere. There is no way to return. In this way, Housman reveals the dedication of the speaker.

Because I Liked You Better by A. E. Housman

 

Summary

‘Because I Liked You Better,’ a poem by A. E. Housman describes how a speaker chose death to keep the promise he made to his beloved.

At first, the speaker or the poetic persona informs the lady love that he liked more than any man can express in words. His devotion somehow irked the lady. So he promised to stay away from her and put a huge distance between them. To fulfill his promise, he chose death.

After his death, when the lady accidentally comes across his grave, there is none to greet her, as he did. The heart that once stirred for the lady, is now still. It said to the lady that the lad who once loved her was the only person who kept his word.

 

Structure

This poem consists of four stanzas. Each stanza contains four rhyming lines. There is a specific rhyme scheme in this piece and it follows the scheme of the ballad stanza. Housman uses the ABCB rhyme scheme throughout the poem. So, the second and fourth lines of each stanza rhyme together.

In each stanza, the syllable count is 7-6-7-6. The stress falls on the second syllable of each foot. For this reason, the overall poem is composed in iambic trimeter. The lines having 7 syllables contain a hypermetrical foot or an unstressed syllable at the end.

Housman uses the first-person point-of-view. That’s why it is an example of a lyric poem.

 

Literary Devices

The most important literary device of this poem is enjambment. This device helps the poet to internally connect the lines. For example, the first two lines, “Because I liked you better/ Than suits a man to say.”

In the last line of the first stanza, “To throw the thought away,” there is a repetition of the “t” sound in the neighboring words. It is an example of alliteration.

The second stanza begins with hyperbole. In the first line, “world” is a symbolic reference to the distance between the lovers.

In the third stanza, there is a personification in the first line. The phrase, “dead man’s knoll” contains a periphrasis. It is a reference to the grave of the speaker.

The fourth stanza contains the use of synecdoche in “The heart no longer stirred.” The last two lines of this piece present a paradox.

 

Analysis, Stanza by Stanza

Stanza One

Because I liked you better

  Than suits a man to say,

It irked you, and I promised

  To throw the thought away.

‘Because I Liked You Better’ begins in a sense of continuity. The relationship has ended. Still, in the speaker’s memory, it is fresh. He liked a lady better than a man can convey in words. Using this hyperbolic expression, he reveals his dedication to the lady.

But his devotion to the lady backfired. It made her angry, to be specific, annoyed. For this reason, he promises to throw such thoughts away from his mind. In this way, the first stanza shows the character of the lady as well as the truthfulness of the speaker. Besides, this stanza paints a monotonous and heart-wrenching mood in the text.

 

Stanza Two

To put the world between us

  We parted, stiff and dry;

`Good-bye,’ said you, `forget me.’

  `I will, no fear’, said I.

As he has said earlier, he had to stop loving that lady. To put a world between them, he parted with a “stiff and dry” heart. The words “stiff” and “dry” are used to make a comparison between the speaker’s heart to an object. Apart from that, Housman uses the word, “world” to depict the distance between the earth and the realm of death.

At the time of parting, the lady told him to forget her as early as he could. In reply, he told her there was nothing to fear. As he would keep that promise.

 

Stanza Three

If here, where clover whitens

  The dead man’s knoll, you pass,

And no tall flower to meet you

  Starts in the trefoiled grass,

In the third stanza of ‘Because I Liked You Better,’ the speaker presents an image of a grave. This grave belongs to none other than the speaker. If the lady comes across his grave accidentally, she can find the clover whitens it. Clover is a kind of plant, with dense globular flowers and three-lobed leaves. It can be seen around his grave.

When the lady passes by, no tall flower in the “trefoiled grass” raises its head to meet her. “Trefoiled grass” is a metaphor for clover. The flowers will not greet the lady as she has caused the person lying beneath them extreme pain.

 

Stanza Four

Halt by the headstone naming

  The heart no longer stirred,

And say the lad that loved you

  Was one that kept his word.

In the fourth stanza, the speaker requests her to halt by the grave. The headstone contains his name. He loved the lady and his heart stirred whenever he saw her. But, now it is still as stone and lost the ability to stir.

The heart of the speaker tells the lady that the lad who loved her is no more. He died for keeping the word. By accepting death, he created a huge distance that the lady dare not cover in her lifetime. On this tragic note, this poem ends.

 

Historical Context

‘Because I Liked You Better’ appears in A. E. Housman’s poetry collection “More Poems,” associated with his poem cycle, “A Shropshire Lad”. It is the 31st poem of the series. After he died in 1936, his brother Laurence over the next two years published his poem from his manuscripts. “More Poems” was published in 1936. Poems 30 and 31 of this collection refer to the broken relations with Moses Jackson. Therefore, this poem reveals Housman’s deep relationship with Moses and how it was affected.

 

Similar Poetry

Here is a list of a few poems that similarly speaks on the themes present in A. E. Housman’s ‘Because I Liked You Better’.

You can also read about the best-unrequited love poems and these incredible death poems.

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Sudip Das Gupta
About
A complete expert on poetry, Sudip graduated with a first-class B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature. He has a passion for analyzing poetic works with a particular emphasis on literary devices and scansion.
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