August 5 A.E. Housman: Eight O’Clock

This poem is a really good example of sound as meaning. If you read it out loud, you can hear the gradual increase of stress; it gets more and more tense as it reads further and further.

The third line of the poem is example of the escalating tension as the poet starts to count the hours in succession, “One, two, three, four, to market-place and people/It tossed them down.” The line before that only sprinkles the quarters (of the hour), so we are heading forward closer and closer to some ultimate fate.

The second stanza starts with “Strapped, noosed, nighing his hour,” which sounds as if he is trapped (strapped) and the fatal hour (eight o’clock, I assume) is drawing nigh. The line feels as though he no longer has any more control over his travels over this earth and the fact that he “curses his luck” must mean he got caught doing something that caused him all of this pain (others might have been more lucky and not gotten caught, or even needed to perpetrate what ever action the poet needed to perpetrate).

The count down speeds the poem along, but then at the final line the clock collects its strength in the tower and strikes. And when you read it out loud, note how final that “k” sound is, notice how your mouth can go no further – you are done!

“And then the clock collected in the tower/It’s strength and struck.” He’s in trouble.

Eight O’Clock

by A.E. Housman

He stood, and heard the steeple
Sprinkle the quarters on the morning town.
One, two, three, four, to market-place and people
It tossed them down.

Strapped, noosed nighing his hour,
He stood and counted them and cursed his luck;
And then the clock collected in the tower
Its strength, and struck.

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About penneloppe

I like to write horror, dark fantasy and crime fiction. Sometimes, I'll write science fiction, but usually I like to write science fact. I also write screenplays and stage plays. My day job is office work. I live in Seattle and I have a cat.
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