To an Athlete Dying Young by A.E.Housman
threshold – doorway
rout – to poke
lintel – door frame
Questions and Answers
1. What is posited as eternal in Housman’s poem?
The poem posits that memories of the athlete’s triumphs will last eternally, though his life was brief.
2. The poem’s first two stanzas are set in the same place but at two very different times. Why is the athlete being honored in the first and second paragraphs?
In the first stanza, the athlete is being honored for winning a race. In the second one, his life is being honored following his death. Note the contrasting images of the crowd “cheering by” in the first stanza to the “stiller town” of the second.
3. The image of a wilting laurel wreath in the third stanza is recalled later in the poem’s concluding lines. What does the speaker intend for the laurel to symbolize in the two usages?
The first image is contrasted against that of a rose. The intention of the comparison seems to be the lasting qualities of success and love. In this comparison, love wins out. Contrastingly, the second image is that of a young girl’s head of curls. The comparison is meant to show the similarities between the athlete’s accomplishments and the girl’s innate innocence. The speaker suggests that both are lost too soon.
4. The repetition of the ‘o’ sound in “hold” and “low” is an example of what literary and poetic device?
The repetition is known as assonance.
5. How does the author feel the young athlete will benefit from dying young? Explain your answer.
Answers may vary. Example: In the fifth stanza, the author discusses how most men outlive their fame. The young athlete died while still well known for his accomplishments, and so will forever be remembered.