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A E HOUSMAN                                        CD                                                     BOOK

A Shropshire Lad:  CD £12      Book £9   

Combined CD and Book package £17

The Recording of 'A Shropshire Lad' by Michael Raven and Joan Mills


The Housman poems are all from A Shropshire Lad, except The Deserter, In Midnights of November and Half Moon which are from Last Poems. All the tunes are traditional, fitted by Michael Raven, except those of The Deserter and Is My Team Ploughing which were composed by Michael Raven. The Welsh tunes are all traditional, arranged for solo guitar by Michael Raven, except Galaru and Rhoslan Reel which were composed by him.


The Penrhyn Castle recordings were made using a 1966 Ramirez flamenco guitar. The rest were made with a 1993 steel strung Lowden 032 with an extra wide custom neck (49 mm at the nut), and a Ramirez A1 Classic. The Lowden was played very hard in the folk-blues style called English Folk Guitar, characterised by string slapping, vibrato, chord damping, heavy ornamentation and, above all, a fiercely rhythmic attack. This is especially suitable for performing the ‘wild laments’ such as the Bard’s Dream and Farewell to Llangyfelach, both typical of what scholars believe to be survivals of very ancient pre-Celtic melody. (The Welsh are a predominantly short, dark people of Iberian blood, who adopted the language of the invading tall, fair-haired Celts.)

Printed music

All the songs, accompaniments and guitar solos have been fully notated and published in a companion book also called A Shropshire Lad. The guitar music is printed in both staff notation and tablature. The book measures 9 inches by 12 inches and has 64 pages. It can be obtained from this website.

About A E Housman

A E Housman was an outstanding Latin scholar and in 1892 became a professor at Cambridge University. He spent 18 years here, during which time his father died a penniless alcoholic. In the spring of 1985 he experienced a sudden upsurge in creativity. Although born in Worcestershire, and only having visited Shropshire once or twice, Housman's imagination was fired by looking westwards from his home towards Shropshire and the Welsh hills. A Shropshire Lad was first published in 1896 and sold out in two years. The success of the book caused him to make several walks to check on geographical details of places mentioned. His worst mistake was Hughly Church and its non-existent steeple. The book was much loved and was often carried by soldiers in the trenches in the First World War. It is not commonly known that Housman refused to allow his poems to be recited on the radio and insisted they be set to music and sung

Housman originally intended to call his collection of poems "The Poems of Terence Hearsay", which doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Fortunately, he was persuaded by his friend Alfred Pollard to call it "A Shropshire Lad". The poet died in 1936 and his ashes were taken to Ludlow Church. At the time of his death he was described as the most learned Latinist in Europe. In his lifetime he refused all honours including the Order of Merit.

In the Dark Ages Shropshire was ruled by the Princes of Powys and Welsh blood still flows in the veins of many a Salopian. There is a link, too, between the poetry of A Shropshire Lad and the pre-Celtic Iberians from over the border, namely a melancholy of mood. Sombre, brooding melodies are as typical of the Welsh as jigs and reels are of the Irish. As to our poet, Housman’s epitaph might well have been "With rue my heart is laden". The ancient music of the Welsh and the timeless verses of the English bard travel well together. However, these glum companions do have their lighter moments and these are also represented here.

Notes to Some of the Songs

Come Pipe a Tune

Housman was a very introverted, conservative person who largely shunned society and was devoted to his work. However, he wasn't all doom and gloom and on occasion he would visit the music hall with a friend and enjoy a drink, and we think he probably had one or two when he wrote this poem. It compares poetry with alcohol, and poetry comes off second best. A memorable line in this poem is: "Malt does more than Milton can to justify God's ways to man". The tune used here is a Morris tune.

The Land of Lost Content

This song comprises two one-verse poems which Michael put together to form one song. These poems contain some of Housman's most memorable lines, in particular, "blue remembered hills". These poems were thought to be some sort of declaration of love for his friend, Moses Jackson. Unfortunately for Housman, this was not reciprocated and soon afterwards Jackson left to live in India, only returning briefly to get married. However, they continued to correspond until Housman's death in 1923.

The New Mistress

The New Mistress is the Army and in this song the young man is obviously hoping that his new mistress will be more faithful than the old one.

The True Lover

This is a song that has a rather creepy and unsettling feel. It tells of a young man who calls on his sweetheart intent on committing suicide, and does so by cutting his throat so that the blood drips all over her neck. The last line is rather ambiguous and seems to imply that he kills her as well, although this not actually said. We know that Housman read a lot of traditional ballads and a common theme is people of differing social scales being unable to marry, resulting in suicide. The tune is the Shropshire version of Cold Blows the Wind.

Wenlock Edge

Wenlock Edge runs from Much Wenlock to Ludlow and is a limestone escarpment, which is heavily wooded with naturally regenerated hardwoods. This song tells of the seasonal changes on Wenlock Edge.

Illic Jacet

Housman's youngest brother, Herbert, died in 1901 fighting in the Boer War. This event inspired one of Housman's most moving poems Illic Jacet (there he lies). It is a dark portrayal of a dead soldier lying in a darkened room covered only by a common blanket and far from family and friends. This poem can be found on the CD 'Recital'.