“Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff” takes its title from the first line of poem sixty-two of A. E. Housman’s first and most important collection of poems, A Shropshire Lad. The poem is divided into four verses of varying length and purpose that, taken together, provide an apology or defense of what is generally regarded as Housman’s pessimistic poetry.
The speaker of the first stanza addresses the poet’s persona, Terence, who is the ostensible author of the preceding poems. Clearly, the speaker is unhappy with the sort of poetry Terence composes. In fact, he reminds the poet that he seems to be in reasonably good health considering his general consumption of food and drink. Terence’s companion in life has no patience with poetry that speaks of broken hearts and broken lives. Further, he accuses Terence of having such a dismal view of life “melancholy mad” that his poetry is endangering the sanity and well-being of his friends, even to the point of being life-threatening. His counsel is that Terence take up a happier mode of existence: “Come pipe a tune to dance to, lad.”
In the next two stanzas the poet (“Terence”) takes up a lively defense of his work. First, he reminds his friend that if he’s looking simply for pleasure, he’s come to the wrong place: Breweries are a better place to find solace from life’s troubles. Moreover, the poet suggests that the making and consuming of beer is a national endeavor, one in which the upper classes profit from the manufacture of beer consumed in great quantities by the common man. The poet questions why else the great breweries of Burton were built on the river Trent and why the English grow...
(The entire section is 690 words.)