How does the speaker attempt to comfort the athlete?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A. E. Housman's "To an Athlete Dying Young" is written in a detached tone that pointedly underscores the irony of athletic glory. For, as the speaker notes, it is better to die young at the height of one's glory than to outlive one's renown. Here are some reasons that the speaker puts forth as comfort to the dying athlete:

  • In dying young, the athlete will still be honored, and he can, thus, become a legend.
  • The young athlete has not outworn his glory: 

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay

  • His laurel will not fade. ("It withers quicker than the rose.")
  • He will not live to see someone else beat his record, and so, he will not have to bear the silence that comes from being a has-been.
  • He will not wear out his honors; in other words, his name will not "die[ed] before the man."
  • His trophy will still be meaningful--"the still-defended challenge cup"
  • The dead will find the athlete fresh and young as they will see  his "early-laurelled head" is yet "unwithered on its curls/The garland briefer than a girl's"
Read the study guide:
To an Athlete Dying Young

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