'With rue my heart is laden' by Alfred Edward Housman

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With rue my heart is laden
For golden friends I had,
For many a rose-lipt maiden
And many a lightfoot lad.

By brooks too broad for leaping
The lightfoot boys are laid;
The rose-lipt girls are sleeping
In fields where roses fade.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry with Rue My Heart is Laden: An Analysis

Oh, how mesmerizing the words of Alfred Edward Housman are! His poem, "With rue my heart is laden," is a classic that has touched the hearts of many readers. The poem is a melancholic reflection on loss and the pain that comes with it. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the various aspects of the poem, analyzing its structure, theme, and imagery, to understand the depth of emotion that Housman has managed to imbue in his words.


The poem comprises three stanzas, each with four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, and the meter is iambic tetrameter, making the poem flow smoothly. Housman employs simple language, devoid of any complicated or obscure words, which intensifies the emotions he is trying to convey. The poem's simplicity and brevity make it accessible to all readers, regardless of their literary background.


The theme of the poem is loss and the associated pain of separation. Housman uses the symbol of the "laden heart" to convey the emotions of grief and sadness. The word "rue" in the title is another symbol that refers to the herb used to express regret or sorrow. The speaker's heart is burdened with sorrow, and the poem is an expression of his melancholy.

The poem does not explicitly mention what has caused the speaker's heartache. However, it can be inferred that the loss is related to death. The imagery of "leaf that falls" suggests the impermanence of life and how death is an inevitable part of it. The poem also touches upon the theme of nostalgia, as the speaker yearns for the past when he was with his loved ones.


Housman's use of imagery is powerful and evocative. The poem is filled with images that capture the emotions of the speaker. The lines "The falling leaf/ That trembles on the tree" create a vivid image of a leaf that is about to fall. The trembling of the leaf is a metaphor for the speaker's heart, which is also trembling with grief.

In the second stanza, Housman uses the image of "the swan that dies" to convey the idea of finality. The swan is a symbol of beauty and grace, and its death is a poignant reminder of how everything must come to an end. The image of the swan dying is a metaphor for the speaker's loss, which is also final and irreversible.

The final stanza of the poem is particularly powerful as Housman uses the image of "the snow that falls" to suggest a sense of resignation. The snow represents the end of the year and the start of a new one. The speaker acknowledges that life must go on, even though he is burdened with grief. The image of the snow falling is also an expression of the speaker's acceptance of his loss.


The tone of the poem is melancholic and mournful. The speaker's sadness is palpable, and the poem is an expression of his grief. The poem is devoid of any hope or optimism and instead focuses on the pain of loss. The tone of the poem is consistent throughout, and Housman does not deviate from the melancholic mood.


In conclusion, "With rue my heart is laden" is a poignant reflection on loss and grief. Housman's use of simple language, powerful imagery, and evocative symbols make the poem a masterpiece of English literature. The poem's accessibility and brevity make it a favorite of students and scholars alike. Even though the poem is over a century old, its message of loss and the pain of separation is timeless and universal.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry has the power to evoke emotions and transport us to a different world. One such poem that has stood the test of time is "With rue my heart is laden" by Alfred Edward Housman. This poem is a beautiful and poignant expression of grief and loss. In this article, we will delve into the meaning and significance of this classic poem.

The poem begins with the line "With rue my heart is laden." The word "rue" means regret or sorrow, and it sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The speaker is clearly in a state of mourning, and the use of the word "laden" suggests that their heart is heavy with grief.

The second line of the poem reads, "For golden friends I had, for many a rose." Here, the speaker is reminiscing about the good times they had with their friends. The use of the word "golden" suggests that these friends were precious and valuable to the speaker. The mention of "many a rose" could be a metaphor for the happy memories that the speaker shared with their friends.

The third line of the poem is, "From the tears of joy and grief at the burial of a friend." This line is particularly significant because it reveals that the speaker is mourning the loss of a friend who has passed away. The use of the phrase "tears of joy and grief" suggests that the speaker is experiencing a range of emotions, from happiness at having known their friend to sadness at their passing.

The fourth line of the poem reads, "Happier dead than I, who have to live my sorrow." This line is a powerful expression of the speaker's grief. They are saying that they would rather be dead than have to live with the pain of losing their friend. This line is particularly poignant because it highlights the depth of the speaker's sorrow.

The fifth and final line of the poem is, "O, poor my heart, and what to say to this?" Here, the speaker is expressing their confusion and helplessness in the face of their grief. They do not know what to say or do to ease their pain. This line is a powerful reminder of the overwhelming nature of grief and loss.

Overall, "With rue my heart is laden" is a beautiful and poignant expression of grief and loss. The poem captures the depth of the speaker's sorrow and their struggle to come to terms with their loss. The use of language and imagery is particularly effective in conveying the emotions of the speaker. The poem is a testament to the power of poetry to evoke emotions and connect us to the human experience.

In conclusion, "With rue my heart is laden" is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It is a powerful expression of grief and loss that continues to resonate with readers today. The poem is a reminder of the importance of friendship and the pain of losing someone we love. It is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the human experience and evoke emotions in its readers.

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