AE Housman

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A.E. Housman’s Attack Of The Crucificxion In “The Carpenter’s Son” Essay, Research Paper English 190-19 Housman?s Attack of the Crucifixion Much symbolism and imagery exists in Alfred Edward Housman?s famous collections of poems. This prominent poet?s reflections of historically important occurrences are filled with implicit meanings. A Shropshire Lad, first published in 1896, was Housman?s first compilation of poetry. In his forty-seventh poem of this famous collection, The Carpenter?s Son, Housman uses imagery to reflect upon Jesus Christ?s last few hours as he dies upon a cross. Upon careful examination of this poem, one gets a feel of Housman?s satirical attitude toward this event. However, before delving into the symbolic nature of this poem, some background

information is a great aid in deciphering its meaning and theme. On March 26, 1859, Alfred Edward Housman was born in Fockbury, Worcestershire, England. He was born into an ancient family of farmers and preachers (Magill 1617). His family was very religious, and this was mostly because his paternal great-grandfather was an evangelical preacher. Housman continued to live a pious life until the death of his mother. Apparently, Housman prayed for weeks, asking God to spare his mother from a sickness. However, when she died on his twelfth birthday, he slowly began to reject his church and the religion affiliated with it. B. J. Leggett suggests that Housman?s rejection of the church and the other troubles he had endured during his life played a major role in the creation of his poem,

The Carpenter?s Son. It is due in part to these reasons, Leggett explains, that Housman?s writings relate to the ?unhappy and painful experiences [and] serve as a defensive function? (121). By creating a satire of a specific painful concept?that the death of Jesus Christ provides mercy and salvation for all?Housman is able ?to deal in imagination with [this] situation which might cause pain, and thus strengthen [his] ability to cope with it? (127). After a few moments? perusal of the poem, one can see that Housman is writing about Christ?s crucifixion. The title refers to the son of a carpenter, and Biblical records show that Saint Joseph, Jesus Christ?s human father, was indeed a carpenter. In his poem, Housman describes Christ as a common man being hung, and to do this he

assumes the persona of the Lord and speaks in first person. In the past, men guilty of crimes were hung for their transgressions. Within the first stanza, Housman introduces the central theme of his poem. He tells his readers, ?Fare you well, for ill fare I: Live lads, and I will die.? This is repeated later in the final stanza. This is a direct allusion to Jesus Christ?s sacrifice of himself to provide everlasting life for all who followed him. The Bible teaches that He died on a cross to save all from sin. In this first stanza, a scene of the hangman shoving Jesus on a cross comes to mind. Jesus tells His followers, who are his best friends, that his end will bring eternal life to them all. However, Housman satirizes this scene by giving his readers the impression that Jesus is

regretting what has brought him to this end. By regarding the Lord as a mere carpenter?s son, and not as the Son of Man, Housman suggests that all of Christ?s work was in vain. Again, this relates back to his frustration with the Church itself. In the second stanza, Housman creates an image of Christ lamenting his misfortune. Christ considers what would have happened had He become an apprentice to his father. He wishes that He had ?stuck to plane and adze,? the wood and tool used in the trade of a carpenter. He says that He would not have been lost, had He simply followed his father?s example. However, He now knows that he will be crucified for His rejection of a passive stance in life. Here, one may draw a parallel between Housman and Christ. Both men regret their faith and