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‘Is my team ploughing,

That I was used to drive

And hear the harness jingle

When I was man alive?’

Ay, the horses trample,

The harness jingles now;

No change though you lie under

The land you used to plough.

‘Is football playing

Along the river shore,

With lads to chase the leather,

Now I stand up no more?’

Ay, the ball is flying,

The lads play heart and soul;

The goal stands up, the keeper

Stands up to keep the goal.

‘Is my girl happy,

That I thought hard to leave,

And has she tired of weeping

As she lies down at eve?’

Ay, she lies down lightly,

She lies not down to weep,

Your girl is well contented.

Be still, my lad, and sleep.

‘Is my friend hearty,

Now I am thin and pine,

And has he found to sleep in

A better bed than mine?’

Yes, lad, I lie easy,

I lie as lads would choose;

I cheer a dead man’s sweetheart,

Never ask me whose.


Alfred Edward Housman (1859–1936) was an English poet and renowned Latin scholar who spent his last decades as Kennedy Professor of Latin at Cambridge and a fellow of Trinity College. “Is My Team Ploughing” is from his first collection
, A Shropshire Lad, which was published in 1896 and became increasingly popular during his lifetime. Because it is perfectly accessible, thoroughly engaging, and exquisitely made, Housman’s poetry remains highly popular today. Perhaps because he was homosexual at a time when such an orientation was forbidden and because of a bitterly disappointing early relationship in which his affections were rejected, Housman opted for a somewhat reclusive life.

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