A.E. Housman’s “Bredon Hill” presents several of the themes and features of Victorian poetry. Let’s review the nature of the poems of that period and see how it is reflected in Housman’s piece.
Victorian poetry presents a strong use of imagery and sensory details. It also has a sentimentality to it, often a tenderness and even a passion. There is sometimes a struggle between religion and science as well as a concentration on the natural world. In terms of form, many Victorians preferred a structured rhythm and rhyme.
With these characteristics in mind, then, look at “Bredon Hill.” The natural world is prominent in this poem as we can see in its vivid images, but there is also something of a conflict with religion. Science does not figure in, but the speaker and his beloved fail to go to church on a Sunday morning even when they hear the bells. They would rather lie on the hill and look out into nature.
However, one day the beloved goes to church by herself, and it is not for Sunday services, much less for the couple’s wedding. The beloved has died. Here is the sentimentality in the poem as well as a note of tenderness. The beloved did not wait for the speaker. She has gone alone with only the mourners to follow her. Now the speaker thinks that he would like to go to the church, too, and the poem ends ambiguously, leaving us to wonder exactly what he intends.
Finally, take a look at the tight rhythms and rhymes of the poem. Here you will also see a typical Victorian feature.