Because I Liked You Better – A. E. Housman – Analysis

There is great musicality in this structured lament on the unrequited homosexual love of A. E. Housman for Moses Jackson – a student he met at university. My comments are in italics after each of the four stanzas.

Because I Liked You Better

Because I liked you better
Than suits a man to say,
It irked you, and I promised
To throw the thought away.

Not easy to admit homosexuality in Victorian times. There was no like response from Jackson – it irked him.

To put the world between us
We parted, stiff and dry;
‘Good-bye’, said you, ‘forget me’
‘I will, no fear’, said I.

Jackson went to America and Housman said he would forget him – later we see this is a somewhat cynical response.

If here, where clover whitens
The dead man’s knoll you pass,
And no tall flower to meet you
Starts in the trefoiled grass,

There is only common ground clover on the ‘dead Housman knoll’ … a tall flower never bloomed – his love never came to fruition. The white flowering could indicate both purity and coldness.

Halt by the headstone naming
The heart no longer stirred,
And say that the lad that loved you
Was one that kept his word.

Housman’s heart at last dead to his love … and it is only in death that Housman forgets him – and thus he kept his word.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

Your word in my ear ...

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