Naxos AudioBooks continues its popular The Great Poets series with A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman. Published at the author’s own expense in 1896, after rejection from publishers, the collection contains a cycle of 63 poems. Despite exploring themes of lost love, obsession, pessimism, and death, the poems touched English readers and the book became a best seller during the Second Boer War and World War I. The collection, set in a half-imagined pastoral Shropshire, includes the well-known poems "When I Was One-and-Twenty", "To an Athlete Dying Young", and "Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now".
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Housman is a high-water mark of British lyric poetry, and this fine production captures perfectly his strong, melodic beat and decisive rhyme, and his wonderful way with words. Samuel West’s cultivated Midlands accent may not be specifically Shropshire, but his voice and reading are true to Housman-who was not, after all, some rough Shropshire lad himself but an Oxford don. His “Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now” and “To an Athlete Dying Young” are beautifully rendered here. West, you feel, reads poetry as it should be read-confidently, with ease and conviction, as if all the world spoke in meter and rhyme.
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