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‘Ashes under Uricon’: Historicizing A. E. Housman, Reifying T. H. Huxley, Embracing Lucretius

  • Kenneth Womack
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Abstract

In his 1911 Cambridge Inaugural Lecture, A. E. Housman alluded to the same scientific and natural laws that informed, thematically and ideologically, much of his earlier poetic oeuvre: ‘This fright, this night of the mind, must be dispelled not by the rays of the sun, nor day’s bright spears, but by the face of nature and her laws. And this is her first, from which we take our start: nothing was ever by miracle made from nothing’ (26). In this remarkably Lucretian phrase, as well as in his own work as poet and classical editor, Housman reveals his great regard for Lucretius and his ancient philosophy. Housman’s admiration for Lucretius has indeed been well-documented; he once praised the poet-philosopher’s De Reruiim Natura lovingly as ‘a work more compact of excellence than any edition of any classic produced in England’ (Graves, 1979, p. 166). Lucretius’ Epicurean ontology profoundly influenced Housman’s poetry, particularly in the poet’s 1896 volume, A Shropshire Lad, while at the same time impinging upon Housman’s own interest in the means of human existence and the topos of atomic theory — Lucretian concepts that fathered the notion of ‘the stuff of life’ so prevalent in Housman’s poetry.1

Keywords

Epicurean Ideal Ordinary Matter Human Soul Human Fear Classical Editor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

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  • Kenneth Womack

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