Variations on a Theme by Houseman

ed rosenthal
January 24, 2015

When I was twenty or twenty-one, I was very much under the influence of my college friends who were serious musicians, despite the fact that I was devoid of musical talent myself.   When I grasped the idea that serious composers of music often took musical themes from other composers and played with them in their compositions, it occurred to me that I could do the same with poetry.   And so it was that in my innocence and vanity, I took ideas and even phrases from the writers who were influencing me at the time, and played with them in what I called Variations.

The first I am going to share is Variations on a theme by Housman from 1965.  A. E. Housman, a famous classical scholar of the twenties through the fifties, who was also the author of an elegant book of verse called A Shropshire Lad.

It helps if you've read the book, but I think this stands on its own,  for what it's worth:

Ah, cheer up, lad, and lift the glass,
And drink your share of beer.Each one of us has lost a lass,
And shed a bitter tear.
Yet still we smile, and quaff our lot
And have a laugh or two.
A gloomy countenance is not
The proper look for you.

Ah, cheer up lad, and hear me out,
I know a thing or two.
Philosophy is put to rout
By the magic of the brew.
So lift the glass and never think
Of all that has gone by.
Trouble drowns in the Sea of Drink;
Yours not to wonder why.


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"for 'twere absurd to think that nature in the earth bred gold, perfect in the instant;
there must be remote matter." - Ben Jonson
"I don't know what the question is, but art is the answer." - Guy Conner

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