Tag Archives: punishment

The Laws Of God By A E Housman

  1. Housman (1895-1936) was a homosexual at a time when to be so was punishable by imprisonment. Unlike Oscare Wilde, Housman avoided imprisonment, (Wilde was imprisoned in Reading Jail where he penned the powerful and moving “Balad of Reading Jail”). The below poem by Housman does, I think need to be read in the context of Housman’s homosexuality.

“The laws of God, the laws of man,

He may keep that will and can;

Not I: let God and man decree

Laws for themselves and not for me;

And if my ways are not as theirs

Let them mind their own affairs.

Their deeds I judge and much condemn,

Yet when did I make laws for them?

Please yourselves, say I, and they

Need only look the other way.

But no, they will not; they must still

Wrest their neighbor to their will,

And make me dance as they desire

With jail and gallows and hell-fire.

And how am I to face the odds

Of man’s bedevilment and God’s?

I, a stranger and afraid

In a world I never made.

They will be master, right or wrong;

Though both are foolish, both are strong.

And since, my soul, we cannot fly

To Saturn nor to Mercury,

Keep we must, if keep we can,

These foreign laws of God and man”.