Sunday, November 09, 2014

George Butterworth: The lads in their hundreds

A.E. Housman published his cycle of poems A Shropshire Lad in 1896 at his own expense after it was turned down by several publishers.

As Wikipedia says:
At first the book sold slowly, but during the Second Boer War (1899–1902), Housman's nostalgic depiction of rural life and young men's early deaths struck a chord with English readers and the book became a best-seller.
Reading them today, you get an eerie feeling that Housman foresaw the First World War.

And the modern reader, you suspect, is more likely to detect the homoerotic undertones than were Housman's contemporaries.

The poems were set by many 20th-century British composers, including Ralph Vaughan Williams, but those by George Butterworth are my favourites.


crewegwyn said...

Immensely moving when sung by Bryn Terfel - who interprets English song wonderfully considering its his 2nd language.

Anonymous said...

Yes, all the more poignant when one learns how Butterworth died on The Somme. For me that is the point at which Liberal England died.