Analysis of Farewell to Barn and Stack and Tree by A.E. Housman


A.E. Housman was a popular poet and was born in 1859 in Worcestershire England. He began his life as a clerk in the patent office for eleven years. Meanwhile Housman was making his name in the field of textual criticism by being engaged in some serious study works and research in the British museum. In 1896 he published A Shropshire Lad a compilation of his poetry collection consisting of his sixty-three poems. In 1911 he became the professor of Latin in Cambridge and a fellow of Trinity College. In 1936 he passed away in a nursing home in his sleep.

In this poem A.E. Housman uses traditional ballad style. A ballad is a narrative poem which tells the story of some dramatic happenings involving violent human emotions. Usually the narration in a ballad is not straight forward story-telling from beginning to end - the story in a ballad is communicated in a few dramatic word pictures with vivid details with much of the actual happenings let to be learnt by implication.

This poem tells a story of conflict and death as in many traditional ballads. A young man has killed his brother. We are not told why; the poet has focused his interest on the state of mind of the young man. This state of mind is given to us through the words of the young man. The whole poem is this young murderer's farewell to a friend named Terence.

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Narrator – Terrance (in reported speech)

setting – pastoral

structure – ballad form

Rhyme scheme – ABAB

Tone – nostalgic, remorseful

Theme – sudden impulse brings grief and regret



Deep-end analysis of the poem


“Farewell to barn and stack and tree,

  Farewell to Severn shore.

Terence, look your last at me,

  For I come home no more.


anaphorafarewell (delaying his farewell, he is not willing to leave but has to)

anastrophelook your last at me (inversion of natural order of words, suggesting his hesitation or confusion)

assonancefor I come home no more (emphasizes about his departure)

enjambment – run on line (forces reader to go through the lines to know what happens next; increases pace and suspense in the poem)

alliterationseven shore

farewell (good bye in old English) bidding goodbye to inanimate objects suggests that he avoids human contacts and they have a close connection to his life.

Severn – is the largest river in UK


In the beginning the reader is seen a farewell speech of a speaker whose words are directly presented as direct speech form. He bids farewell to inanimate objects and places: which must be very close to his life. His intention of not returning is clearly shown by his repetitive utterances. Reader may feel sympathetic about him and be curious to know what really has happened. His hesitation is an implication that he has made the decision without his will. His friend Terence seems to be a closer friend of him as he bids farewell to him in an intimate way.   


“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.


tactile imagery: sun burns on the half mown hill (reader feels the heat of the sun which dried the blood)

visual imagery: blood is dried/Maurice lies still among the hay/knife in his side

personificationsun burns (it too has word play, if we put son instead of sun, it implies the suffer and grief of the brother who killed his brother)

metaphorsun burns (in metaphorical level sun burns means the midday)

symbolhalf mown hill, blood (half mown suggests that the boys have completed only a part of their lives, one is dead by now and other has ruined his life, blood is a symbol to death)

euphemismMaurice amongst the hay lies still / my knife is in his side (The effect of death and killing is reduced to imply that the brother has committed the crime unintentionally, he repents over his work)

anastropheMaurice amongst the hay lies still. (shows his reluctance to reveal his crime)

anaphoraand (shows urgency)

enjambment – 3rd and 4th line (forces reader to read the next line quickly to resolve a problem) here reader finds out who killed Maurice.

alliterationhalf mown hill

possessive pronoun – my (shows that he admits his crime)


Second stanza half - reveals the secret behind his departure. He has Murdered a person called Maurice and he confesses that he is the murderer. The time and place of death is hinted as somewhere before noon as now the blood is dried and the hill is too half mown. His hesitation and the way he reveals the death of Maurice suggests that he has not planned this crime. The reader is kept at the edge of seats to know more about the incident.


“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.


dramatic ironymy mother thinks us long away. (reader and the narrator knows what has really happened but mother does not know about the tragedy)

word punson (sun; son can be replaced with the word sun that gives a sense too, mother had two suns to enlighten her life but after this incident her life is going to be filled with darkness)

symbol – night (night is a symbol for hardships or danger)

juxtaposition – they were to mow the lawn but one killed the other. /she had two sons at rising day, to-night she’ll be alone

subjunctive – were (shows the inability or improbability of something to happen)

metaphorrising day (refers to the morning)

Possessive Pronoun – my (Possessive nature is shown by possessive pronoun; this might be the actual cause for his sudden impulse to kill his brother)


Third stanza further reveals about the relationship between the victim and the culprit. He is his own brother! (Killing a brother is called a fratricide.) Mother is yet unaware of the plight of any of her sons. The mother’s uncertain future is brought out as she has lost both her sons. His concern and grief about the plight of mother is too revealed.



“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.


metaphorbloody hand (He introduces his hands are stained with death; his crime)

imagery – bloody hand

commas and pauses – shows that he is getting emotional.


His remorse is clearly visible in his confession calling his hands are blood soaked and admitting that he can never go back to his previous life. He is repenting over his actions which resulted him to lose his way of life forever. 


“I wish you strength to bring you pride,

  And love to keep you clean,

And I wish you luck, come Lammastide,

  At racing on the green.


anaphora – and (increases the pace of the poem, the narrator wants to finish the story quickly)

juxtapositionbring you pride/ love to keep you clean (he contrasts his stained life with his hope his friend to have a clean life)

symbol – green (green symbolizes better life)

Lammastide – a holiday celebrated on August 1st to mark the wheat harvest


His concern for his friend a better future sharply contrasts with his lost future. Because of his crime, he can never be clean nor proud. His future intention to meet his friend in Lammastide is hinted here showing the intimate friendship they share.



“Long for me the rick will wait,

  And long will wait the fold,

And long will stand the empty plate,

  And dinner will be cold.”


anaphoraand long, and (emphasizes his grief and his reluctance to leave the place where he grew and familiar to)

imagery – empty plate

symbol – empty plate (suggests his uncertain or empty life in the future)

the simple future form will – has a positive remark that one day he hopes to come back home


His nostalgic and remorseful feeling is clearly visible by his worry to leave his familiar places and farm. He craves for the lost- warmth of the family and worries about what might happen next in his home. However, this provides an anticlimax to the tragedy where the culprit understands the depth of his crime. Therefore, this poem is in a way an eye-opener of the reader to think before act.


Hope you have grasped the idea of the poem, if you have any suggestions to be made, please feel free to comment below. If you want our monthly posts as a newsletter, you can subscribe to our blog. Share the post if you find this useful. 


Post a Comment


  1. This is very useful for me to know about poetic techniques in this poem by A.E Hoseman

  2. Is the name of the Poet A.E Houseman or A. E Housman

  3. thank you sir for your hard work

  4. very useful thank you sir ........

  5. Thank You Sir. Very Useful

  6. It indeed is very useful and they have interesting points which is perfect for my essay. Thanks for your great hardwork Sampath

  7. Sir is terrence the narrator?

  8. very useful thank you