To an Athlete Dying Young by A. E. Housman

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What are the poetic elements in "To an Athlete Dying Young" by A. E. Housman?

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One of the tragic fates in life is the death of young person in the prime of his life.  Most people want to live a long life and would not wish a premature death on anyone.  Yet, this is the impetus of the poem “To an Athlete Dying Young” by A. E. Housman.  The poet puts a different slant on dying too young.

Literary Elements

The setting of the poem is the funeral of a young runner who won a championship which pleased the entire town.

The narration is first person with one of the dead young man’s friends as the speaker.

The theme of the poem is the death of the speaker’s reflection on the young athlete’s death serving a positive purpose. 

The tone initially seems sad and mourning but as the poem progresses, it becomes celebratory for the early death of the boy.

Figurative language-

Metaphor-

  • “the road all runners come…” This is the road to the cemetery.
  • “Townsman of a stiller town.” The young athlete is now a member of the graveyard or cemetery.

Simile-

“It withers quicker than a...

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