My first impression of this poem was that is was confusing.  It makes me feel interested, yet, at the same time,confused. A line that especially evokes the first feeling for me is, “Smart lad, to slip betimes away .”  The other feeling – of confusion – arises when I read the lines, “Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead”. Perhaps because in these lines they do not match the surrounding lines .

What I know about the situation – what’s happening in the poem – is that there is an athlete would seems to be running away from something or after something to prove some sort of strength to someone or something . What I know about the speaker is that they are the kind of person who goes into writing deeper and likes to have the reader thinking on a deeper level. This is suggested by the line “And the name died before the man”. The speaker seems to be speaking to an audience , and perhaps to the athlete himself/ herself.  I say this because there wouldn’t be anyone else the author would have to talk to for this. The poem doesn’t spring from a particular historical moment or culture.  The poem revolves around several themes, including Inspiration and Over coming. If this poem were a question, the answer would be “ Success can be very difficult to achieve once you have already been forgotten by many  ”. If it were an answer, question would be “What does true success mean to you?” .

The poem’s form is a Dramatic monologue   This form is a vehicle for the content of the poem.  If the poem were a Couplet, it would not guide me toward an understanding of the poem’s meaning. The dramatic monologue guides me towards a deeper understanding because of the fact that it feels as if the author is talking directly to the reader or a listener.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 A Close Reading on “To An Athlete Dying Young” by A.E Housman by Isaiah is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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