A.E. Housman
To An Athlete Dying Young (1896)

 

The time you won your town the race

 

We chaired you through the market-place;

 

Man and boy stood cheering by,

4

And home we brought you shoulder-high.

   
 

Today, the road all runners come,

 

Shoulder high we bring you home,

 

And set you at your threshold down,

8

Townsman of a stiller town.

   
 

Smart lad, to slip betimes away

 

From fields where glory does not stay

 

And early though the laurel grows

12

It withers quicker than the rose.

   
 

Eyes the shady night has shut

 

Cannot see the record cut,

 

And silence sounds no worse than cheers

16

After earth has stopped the ears:

   
 

Now you will not swell the rout

 

of lads that wore their honors out,

 

Runners whom renown outran

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And the name died before the man.

   
 

So set, before its echoes fade,

 

The fleet foot on the sill of shade,

 

And hold to the low lintel up

24

The still-defended challenge-cup.

   
 

And round that early-laurelled head

 

Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,

 

And find unwithered on its curls

28

The garland briefer than a girl's.