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Stoppard also explores an even bigger hiatus in Housman’s life, one that appears in his poetry: but the scene echoes through the poetry Housman wrote in his notebooks which was published after his death by his brother, Laurence.
Many see the difference between the Shropshire Lad’s mournful strains and the cold cruelty of the Latin professor’s reviews emerging from the chasm that separated Housman from the man he loved.
‘I wish you strength to bring you pride, And a love to keep you clean, And I wish you luck, come Lammastide, At racing on the green.
When I Was One-and-Twenty is the first line of the untitled Poem XIII from A. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad (1896), but has often been anthologised and given musical settings under that title.
He earned a Pass degree and went to work in Her Majesty’s Patent Office, where Jackson was also employed. Moses’ brother Adalbert lived with them until December 1884. In 1887 Jackson moved to Karachi, India, to become principal of a technical school, Sind College.
When he returned to marry in 1889, he kept the news from Housman until he and his bride had sailed.
‘The sun burns on the half-mown hill, By now the blood is dried; And Maurice amongst the hay lies still And my knife is in his side.
‘My mother thinks us long away; ’Tis time the field were mown.
She had two sons at rising day, To-night she’ll be alone.
‘And here’s a bloody hand to shake, And oh, man, here’s good-bye; We’ll sweat no more on scythe and rake, My bloody hands and I.