Quotations by Housman, A. E.


Most men are rather stupid, and most of those who are not stupid are, consequently, rather vain.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) English scholar and poet [Alfred Edward Housman]
“The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism,” lecture (4 Aug 1921)
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And, what is worse, the reader often shares the writer’s prejudices, and is far too well pleased with his conclusions to examine either his premises or his reasoning. Stand on a barrel in the streets of Bagdad, and say in a loud voice, ‘Twice two is four, and ginger is hot in the mouth, therefore Mohammed is the prophet of God’, and your logic will probably escape criticism; or, if anyone should by chance criticise it, you could easily silence him by calling him a Christian dog.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) English scholar and poet [Alfred Edward Housman]
“The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism”
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Clay lies still, but blood’s a rover;
Breath’s a ware that will not keep.
Up, lad: when the journey’s over
There’ll be time enough to sleep.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) English scholar and poet [Alfred Edward Housman]
A Shropshire Lad, #4 (“Reveille”), st. 6 (1896)
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Malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) English scholar and poet [Alfred Edward Housman]
A Shropshire Lad, #62 “The Welsh Marches” (1896)
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The laws of God, the laws of man,
He may keep that will and can;
Now I: let God and man decree
Laws for themselves and not for me.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) English scholar and poet [Alfred Edward Housman]
Last Poems, No. 12, l. 1-4 (1922)

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And how am I to face the odds
Of man’s bedevilment, and God’s?
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) English scholar and poet [Alfred Edward Housman]
Last Poems, No. 12, l. 15-18 (1922)
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We for a certainty are not the first
Have sat in taverns while the tempest hurled
Their hopeful plans to emptiness, and cursed
Whatever brute and blackguard made the world.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) English scholar and poet [Alfred Edward Housman]
Last Poems, No. 9, st. 3 (1922)

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Here dead lie we because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is, and we were young.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) English scholar and poet [Alfred Edward Housman]
More Poems, #36 (1936)
Added on 12-Mar-14 | Last updated 12-Mar-14
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Who made the world I cannot tell;
‘Tis made, and here am I in hell.
My hand, though now my knuckles bleed,
I never soiled with such a deed.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) English scholar and poet [Alfred Edward Housman]
More Poems, No. 19, st. 2 (1936)

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Three minutes thought would suffice to find this out; but thought is irksome and three minutes is a long time.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) English scholar and poet [Alfred Edward Housman]
Saturae of Juvenal (1905)
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Nature, not content with denying to Mr — the faculty of thought, has endowed him with the faculty of writing.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) English scholar and poet [Alfred Edward Housman]
In L. Houseman, A. E. H. (1937)

From a list of insults drafted by A. E. Housman, posthumously published.  The name was left blank in the original, with the intent to fill it in when used later on a target.

Added on 29-Oct-10 | Last updated 29-Oct-10
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The average man, if he meddles with criticism at all, is a conservative critic. His opinions are determined not by his reason — ‘the bulk of mankind’ says Swift ‘is as well qualified for flying as for thinking’ — but by his passions; and the faintest of all human passions is the love of truth. He believes that the text of ancient authors is generally sound, not because he has acquainted himself with the elements of the problem, but because he would feel uncomfortable if he did not believe it; just as he believes, on the same cogent evidence, that he is a fine fellow, and that he will rise again from the dead.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) English scholar and poet [Alfred Edward Housman]
Introduction to Astronomicon of Manilius, Book 1 (1937)

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Added on 24-Sep-10 | Last updated 24-Sep-10
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The house of delusions is cheap to build but drafty to live in.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) English scholar and poet [Alfred Edward Housman]
Lecture, Faculties of Arts and Laws and of Science, University College, London (3 Oct 1892)
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It looks to me as if the state of mankind always had been and always would be a state of just tolerable discomfort.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) English scholar and poet [Alfred Edward Housman]
Letter to Gilbert Murray (23 Apr 1900)
Added on 8-Oct-10 | Last updated 8-Oct-10
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