Alfred Edward Housman was born in Frockbury, Worcestershire, in 1859. Educated at Bromsgrove School, he won a scholarship to St. John's College, Oxford. He became a distinguished classical scholar and in 1892 was appointed professor of Latin at University College, London.
In 1896 he published A Shropshire Lad. The 63 poems recall the innocence, the pleasures and the tragedies of the countryside. He also published critical editions of Manilius (1903) and Juvenal (1905). In 1911 Housman became Professor of Latin at Cambridge University. His brother, Laurence Housman, was also a successful writer and illustrator.
Housman continued to write poetry and his Last Poems (1922) met with great acclaim. Praefanda (1931) was a collection of bawdy and obscene passages from Latin authors. Alfred Edward Housman died in 1936.
These, in the days when heaven was falling,
The hour when earth's foundations fled,
Followed their mercenary calling
And took their wages and are dead.
Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood, and the earth's foundations stay;
When God abandoned, these defended,
And saved the sum of things for pay.
Here we dead lie because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is, and we were young.