As you probably guessed, "To an Athlete Dying Young" is about an athlete that (surprise!) dies young. What is surprising is that Housman doesn't spend much time lamenting the young athlete's death. Instead, he pitches the positive aspects of dying young. Strange? You bet. And it's far from the typical approach in an elegy. But then A.E. wasn't a typical kind of guy.
Karen reads aloud A.E. Houseman's poem "To an Athlete Dying Young" at Denys' funeral in this wonderful film. The poem is a beautiful elegy, well chosen to fit the character of Denys (Robert Redford).
Theme in Housman’s “To an Athlete Dying Young”
After introducing students to the poems and common terms, break students into four small groups to have them conduct in-depth analysis of the poems' form and meaning. Assign two groups to "To an Athlete Dying Young" and two groups to "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night." Hand out the corresponding student analysis worksheet to each group. Ask each student group to analyze its assigned poem in small groups via active discussion. Tell each group select a note taker to record the group's response on the worksheet, and point out that each group will present its worksheet responses to the full class.