Week 5: When Summer’s End Is Nighing, by A.E.Housman

When Summer’s End Is Nighing

When summer’s end is nighing
And skies at evening cloud,  
I muse on change and fortune
And all the feats I vowed  
When I was young and proud.

The weathercock at sunset
Would lose the slanted ray,  
And I would climb the beacon
That looked to Wales away  
And saw the last of day.

From hill and cloud and heaven
The hues of evening died;  
Night welled through lane and hollow
And hushed the countryside,  
But I had youth and pride.

And I with earth and nightfall
In converse high would stand,  
Late, till the west was ashen
And darkness hard at hand,  
And the eye lost the land.

The year might age, and cloudy
The lessening day might close,  
But air of other summers
Breathed from beyond the snows,  
And I had hope of those.

They came and were and are not
And come no more anew;  
And all the years and seasons
That ever can ensue  
Must now be worse and few.  

So here’s an end of roaming
On eves when autumn nighs:  
The ear too fondly listens
For summer’s parting sighs,  
And then the heart replies.


In my youth I had an equal passion for poetry and running, and this poem by Housman (one of the first poets I ever loved, and one I still love) has come to have a particular poignancy for me, the time having long gone when each new ‘season’ could be looked forward to with expectations of new personal bests on road or track. I doubt if Housman ever intended such a literal interpretation, but it is in the nature of poetry that poets cannot always foresee the resonances their words may take on for others.


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