A A. E. Housman

They Say My Verse is Sad by A.E. Housman

‘They Say My Verse is Sad’ by A.E. Housman is a direct, two stanza poem. In it, Housman describes why he writes poetry and who he writes for. 

They Say My Verse is Sad by A.E. Housman Visual Representation

The poem uses easy to understand language and directs itself towards the purpose of writing verse. It might be sad and might deal with tough subjects, but it hopefully brings comfort to those who need it. Housman intends his poems to be read by those who are in “trouble.” ‘They Say My Verse is Sad’ makes it clear that his poems are written for himself. 

They Say My Verse is Sad
A.E. Housman

They say my verse is sad: no wonder.
Its narrow measure spans
Rue for eternity, and sorrow
Not mine, but man's

This is for all ill-treated fellows
Unborn and unbegot,
For them to read when they're in trouble
And I am not.
They Say My Verse is Sad by A.E. Housman


Summary

They Say My Verse is Sad’ by A.E. Housman is a short poem about the poet’s understanding of his own writing.

In the first lines of this poem, the speaker, Housman, begins by noting that others believe his verse is sad. He knows why, as it does its best to contend with universal themes important to all of humanity. It has a limited scope, though, something that adds to the general sadness of the endeavor. Despite this, he still writes for others. He isn’t writing for himself. He doesn’t take comfort in his own poetry. It’s for those who are in more trouble than he is. 

Structure and Form 

‘They Say My Verse is Sad’ by A.E. Housman is a two-stanza poem that is divided into sets of four lines, or quatrains. These quatrains follow a rhyme scheme of ABCB, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. The lines follow a loose metrical pattern. The first line of both stanzas contains nine syllables, the second: six, and the fourth: four. The third line of the first stanza is nine syllables long and the third line of the second stanza is eight syllables. 

Literary Devices 

Throughout this piece, the poet engages with several literary devices. These include but are not limited to: 

  • Alliteration: can be seen when the poet repeats the same consonant sounds at the beginning of words. For example, “mine” and “mans” in line four of the first stanza. 
  • Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines two and three of the first stanza and lines one and two of the second stanza.
  • Repetition: occurs when the poet repeats the same word, phrase, image, structure, or other poetic element. In this case, the poet repeats the same sounds with “Unborn” and “unbent” in stanza two and the structure and words used in line four of the first stanza with “Not mine, but man’s” is also a good example. 
  • Imagery: occurs when the poet uses particularly interesting descriptions. For example: “Tears of eternity, and sorrow, / Not mine, but man’s.”


Detailed Analysis 

Stanza One 

They say my verse is sad: no wonder;

Its narrow measure spans

Tears of eternity, and sorrow,

Not mine, but man’s.

In the first stanza of ‘They Say My Verse is Sad,’ the speaker begins with the phrase that later came to be used as the title. He knows his verse is sad and adds onto this that it’s no wonder that people think so. It contends with enormous topics, like “Tears of eternity and sorrow.” He attempts to write on “man’s” experience, not just his own. But, his poetry has a “narrow measure.” It can only accomplish so much. So, in addition to touching on saddening and thought-provoking topics, it’s not broad enough to do them justice. 

Stanza Two 

This is for all ill-treated fellows

Unborn and unbegot,

For them to read when they’re in trouble

And I am not.

In the second stanza, the speaker notes that “This,” or his poetry, is “for all ill-treated fellows / Unborn and unbegot.” He writes for those who are passed over by luck and all manner of good fortune. These “fellows” need his verse in a deep way (or at least he hopes). It may provide them with some solace when “they’re in trouble.”

The poem concludes with the speaker again returning to the idea that his verse is not for him or for when he’s in trouble but for when others are. The simple lines of this poem are easy to read and understand. 

FAQs 

What is the tone of ‘They Say My Verse is Sad?’ 

The tone is descriptive and understanding. The speaker, who is commonly considered to be the poet himself, acknowledges the nature of his verse and attempts to outline his intentions with it. He understands the world and its need for poetry.

What is the purpose of ‘They Say My Verse is Sad?’

The purpose is to describe why the poet writes and who he writes for. It’s not for himself or for a single “man.” It’s for all of humanity and all of those who are suffering or are in trouble. 

What are the themes of ‘They Say My Verse is Sad?’

The themes in this poem are writing and humanity. The poet uses his writing to connect with and comfort his readers. He pens his verse, which often deals with a broad idea of existence and the purpose of life, in order to bring comfort to those in trouble. 

Who is the speaker in ‘They Say My Verse is Sad?’

The speaker is A.E. Housman himself. He spends the lines of his verse describing why he writes and who he writes for. 


Similar Poetry 

Readers who enjoyed ‘They Say My Verse is Sad’ should also consider reading some other A.E. Housman poems. For example: 

Discover the Essential Secrets

of Poetry

Sign up to unveil the best kept secrets in poetry,

brought to you by the experts

They Say My Verse is Sad by A.E. Housman Visual Representation
About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
>

Discover and learn about the greatest poetry, straight to your inbox

Start Your Perfect Poetry Journey

Ad blocker detected

To create the home of poetry, we fund this through advertising

Please help us help you by disabling your ad blocker

 

We appreciate your support

The Best-Kept Secrets of Poetry

Discover and learn about the greatest poetry ever straight to your inbox

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap