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,


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,


Townsman of a stiller town.


Smart lad, to slip betimes away


From fields where glory does not stay


And early though the laurel grows


It withers quicker than the rose.


Eyes the shady night has shut


Cannot see the record cut,


And silence sounds no worse than cheers


After earth has stopped the ears:


Now you will not swell the rout


of lads that wore their honors out,


Runners whom renown outran


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


The still-defended challenge-cup.


And round that early-laurelled head


Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,


And find unwithered on its curls


The garland briefer than a girl's.