Friday, July 15, 2011

Some Things Never Change

"When I was one–and–twenty
I heard a wise man say,
'Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.'
But I was one–and–twenty,
No use to talk to me.

"When I was one–and–twenty
I heard him say again,
'The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
'Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.'
And I am two–and–twenty,
And oh, 'tis true, 'tis true."

A E Housman
From "A Shropshire Lad"

I started writing short stories as soon as I learned how to make letters on paper, and I've been writing, in one way or another, ever since.

My mother, above all others, encouraged me to write, and I will always be grateful to her for that encouragement.

I've done all kinds of writing in my life. It is my form of self–expression.

It is odd, I suppose, that I have seldom written poetry. I guess I have never really felt comfortable with it — although there was a time when I dabbled with poetry in the form of song lyrics. One of my college buddies played the guitar and wrote several tunes but felt his lyrics weren't strong enough.

So I told him I would write some lyrics for him, and he could try to adapt them to music he had already written. Our arrangement eventually did yield some songs that he played with his band — none of which has amounted to much.

Other than that somewhat modified form of poetry writing, I haven't composed many poems — except for some occasions when I was in love (that was really much more of a cause–and–effect kind of thing).

But Alfred (better known as "AE") Housman did.

Housman was a classical poet, considered one of the leaders of his age, and, to be sure, he lived in a different time. But he wrote of things that are eternal.

It was 75 years ago this year that he died, and he seems to be disappearing from memory — except for those English majors who may still study his works today.

That is a shame because his poems, particularly the cycle of poems titled "A Shropshire Lad" (which was published near the end of the 19th century), had many valid observations about young people that are still good today — because, when you get right down to it, young people don't change. They simply acquire wisdom as they get older.

You see, some things in life simply cannot be learned by proxy. Some things must be learned first hand, and the pain those experiences bring must be felt.

And much of it is the byproduct of living, as Housman makes clear in "A Shropshire Lad."

Young people probably won't understand what he says in his poetry — but they never have. To quote one of my favorite movie lines (from "It's a Wonderful Life"), youth is wasted on the wrong people.

Some things never change.