- 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”.