Sydney Walcher Instructor, Lisa Ward English 1213 8 April 2013 To an Athlete Dying Young A. E. Housman was a poet born in 1859 who became very successful during his lifetime. “To an Athlete Dying Young” represents the theme of glory is fleeting by illustrating the point that if a successful athlete dies young, they will not have to worry about their glory of victory fading. They can rest in peace knowing they will be remembered at their athletic peak when they were successful and victorious.
They will not have to go through the pain of watching their fame disappear or whither out with time. In this poetic masterpiece, Housman pulls together figurative language, sound devices, and structure to illustrate that glory is fleeting through a majestic poem that will be remembered for many years. Figurative language consists of many different devices including metaphors and similes which are often used in poetry like “To an Athlete Dying Young. ” Metaphors compare unlike things but does not use like or as, the comparison is implied.
Some metaphors that stick out in “To an Athlete Dying Young” are the phrase “stiller town” which is a metaphor for a cemetery and the line “Eyes the shady night has shut” which metaphorically states that someone has died. Another device often used in Housman’s poem is similes, which compare unlike things while using like or as to make a direct comparison. Some examples like “It withers quicker than the rose” use than instead of the like or as which is commonly used for similes. Most, if not all, similes in this poem use this method.
When contradictory terms are used consecutively they are called an oxymoron. The only line in this poem sticks out as an oxymoron is “silence sounds. ” Poems are usually known for rhyming, but not all do. Many poems use other sound devices such as alliteration and rhyme. “To an Athlete Dying Young” uses both of these devices throughout the poem. Alliteration is the similarity of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or consecutive words. One example of alliteration is “The fleet foot on the ill of shade” because of both fleet and foot and sill and shade. Another example is “Today, the road all runners come” because of road and runner. Rhyme is similarity of sound between words or the endings of words when used at the end of a line of poetry. The rhyme scheme of “To an Athlete Dying Young” is ABAB. This means that the last word of every two lines rhymes. For example, “So set, before its echoes fade,/The fleet foot on the sill of shade,/And hold to the lintel up/The still-defended challenge cup. This is an excellent demonstration of the ABAB rhyme scheme because “fade” and “shade” rhymes, as does “up” and “cup. ” In “To an Athlete Dying Young,” Housman uses iambic tetrameter, which refers to a line that is four iambic feet long, to create a lyric poem that can otherwise be known as an elegy since it praises an athlete that died young. Iambic tetrameter affects the beat of the words and how they flow together gracefully. Iambic tetrameter consists of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. Most lines in these poems tend to have eight syllables.
However, lines thirteen and fourteen, “Eyes the shady night has shut/Cannot see the record cut,” stray from iambic tetrameter to trochaic tetrameter, one stressed syllable plus one unstressed syllable in four feet, with catalexis, which is an incomplete foot at the end of a line. The literary masterpiece, “To an Athlete Dying Young,” uses figurative language, sound devices, and structure to illustrate a poem that demonstrates the fact that glory is fleeting. The figurative language is used to create imagery, or to provide visual descriptions to create images in one’s head.
Figurative language paints a picture with words to help readers see the story. It also creates many different perspectives based on the readers and their perspectives. The sound devices help create lines and rhythms that gracefully flow off the reader’s tongue. Structure is what incorporates the rhythms and other devices into a pattern that binds the lines of a poem into a small story with a moral that can be told to many different generations. “To an Athlete Dying Young” is a magnificent example of a lyric or an elegy that will be told for years to come.
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