Treasure Island

Alfred Edward Housman

(26 March 1859 – 30 April 1936 / Worcestershire)

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Here Dead We Lie


Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

Submitted: Wednesday, December 24, 2003

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Comments about this poem (Here Dead We Lie by Alfred Edward Housman )

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  • Claude H Oliver Ii (2/2/2014 10:25:00 AM)

    It is a poem of its time. Was death for the greater good or a personal need to be a man? Interesting question. (Report) Reply

  • Claude H Oliver Ii (2/2/2014 10:19:00 AM)

    An acceptance of tribal, ethnic or national devotion which overrides devotion to humanity. It is a poem of its time. When seen from our perspective, one senses that some of us see choosing life and embracing it may be a positive evolution. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Morgan (2/2/2014 10:07:00 AM)

    Nice, from an academic who never went to war. The poem is pure posture, and full of empty bravado, though well phrased. Houseman would never have gone to ANY war. MM (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh Rai (2/2/2014 8:37:00 AM)

    Life without any good deed is like a dead and shameful to the land.
    Youth have so much to do and to ensure that they may say what about the youth. A provoking write. (Report) Reply

  • Ebuka Prince Okoroafor (2/2/2014 2:16:00 AM)

    In my own candid opinion, i'd say this is a great poem, two stanzas and explcit.

    In the first stanza he trys to tell us what it means to die with dignity, to die fighting with little hope for a cause.he prefares to die than 'shame the land' from which he sprung.this is real patriotism

    in the second stanza housman tries to explain a young man's view of life. Youth is a stage where young men think less before action...most times in the eyes of an exuberent youth, life is seen as 'nothing much to loose.. This is so true(have you withnessed university students on rampage before?)

    its never right to rate a poem low when you've not understood the subject matter from the writer's viewpoint. (Report) Reply

  • * Sunprincess * (2/2/2014 1:33:00 AM)

    ....my second reading and I find the poem says
    our men of the military chose not to shame their country
    so they accepted their duty and some now lie dead... (Report) Reply

  • * Sunprincess * (2/2/2013 8:10:00 AM)

    sure he was thinking of how some men
    dishonor women and he chose not to..
    ~To live and shame the land
    From which we sprung.~ (Report) Reply

  • Carlos Echeverria (2/2/2012 1:25:00 PM)

    It's great poem because it's open to interpretation. The first line, taken literally, means the dead are not telling the truth about the ravages of war.If that first were to rhyme, it would be inversion; but it's not-its meaning is exact. To me, this poem protests war. (Report) Reply

  • Mohammad Akmal Nazir (2/2/2011 8:17:00 PM)

    Outstanding poetry. The young soldiers preferred to die in the battle field than to bring disgrace to their country.
    They didn't want to come to their own country as losers.
    Excellent poem! (Report) Reply

  • Ian Fraser (2/3/2010 6:49:00 AM)

    Few poems as short as this have caused as much controversy As Here Dead We Lie. Many attempts have beeen made to re-interpret it in the light of more 'modern' views of war but I think Houseman is indeed saying that it is preferable to accept the risk of death than the shame of cowardice and that the life of the individual is less significant than that of the good of the whole. This last position begs of course a huge question - how is the good of the whole determined? By the powers that be? Houseman could at times be quite depressive and there does seem to be a kind of death wish here. I don't see this as one of his better poems. (Report) Reply

  • Sylva Portoian (2/3/2010 6:02:00 AM)

    'Here Dead We Lie'
    The line stanziated as definite end
    However...
    I feel, might can still means,
    'We lie, but still we are alive'. (Report) Reply

  • Joey Valenzuela (2/2/2010 11:32:00 PM)

    the second stanza is somewhat saying that man is losing much about life...
    and it soppurted the idea that man did not die in his land-may signify his country, or the place where he was born(read last line) -

    and that is the much a person lost (which is presented in stanza two.... (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Straw (2/2/2010 9:59:00 AM)

    This is second-rate poetry.

    The first line contains an unnecessary inversion – why not “Here we lie dead/Because…”

    Also in the first line: “here” and “lie” could be left out (we know the dead “lie” and we know they must lie somewhere, and where else do they “lie” if not “here”? 'We are dead because...' could have been the first line.

    The “to be sure” is smug – and there is nothing “sure” about life being nothing much to lose (Housman here tries to make his own jaundiced view of life a universal belief.) . Nor is it sure that young men think life is nothing much to lose..

    Housman ignores all the positive reasons for which young men fought in WWI (and there were many) for the negative one of not wanting to 'live and shame the land...'. (Report) Reply

  • Indira Renganathan (2/2/2010 1:47:00 AM)

    Simple words pregnant with a meaningful call for the youth....all the youths should ponder over what they should do for the betterment of their land.as it's the righteous general norm....a norm necessary for the mother-land...here this poem speaks to the extreme of sacrifice....honorable poet and poem (Report) Reply

  • Sadiqullah Khan (2/2/2010 1:13:00 AM)

    Had he not been young, he would not have done this sacrifice. Now a day, there is no such trend and people are aware of their rights and duties than to be bullied to death in the name of religion or patriotism. Young men are deceived into death while fighting. Those who win then celebrate on their dead bodies. This is what he is talking about in this poem. Excellent narration, simple and filled with emotion. (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh T A (2/2/2010 1:07:00 AM)

    There is nothing to lose in living life. But living life there should be some meaning! They choose to die for a great cause! Though they lie dead they are still young to live long in the history of the land! This should be the attitude of each one to live life in this world! (Report) Reply

Read all 23 comments »

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