Here Dead Lie We
Here dead lie we because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is, and we were young.
A. E. Houseman
This short poem presents such a tragedy as the death of a fnumber of notably young individuals lightly, although not irreverantly. It makes no apologies for the subject at hand, nor the manner in which it's handled. Nor should it. The fact is, people even and almost especially young people die. This poem offers a why instead of a whine.
It's not very difficult to find the answer, either. The first two lines make the point fairly directly. They died by choice. The bit, "and shame the land," is slightly confusing as to its meaning, When Houseman says shame the land, he means that the actions of the narrators would put the land to shame by up-staging the people of the land and previous actions. In essence, he means, ...because we did not choose to be heroes.
At first, the next line sounds a little off-hand, like a casual dismissal of life. However, "...is nothing much to lose," implies that death is no high goal, and dying's a piece of cake. "Duty is heavy as a mountain. Death is light as a feather." Yet, the young, especially teenagers seem to think their skin's impenetrable, their bones unbreakable, and their life everlasting. Therefore, they go out and try to test the extent of their immortality. In fact, the bigger part of a parent's job is keeping their children from self-destructing.
In short, the narrators are saying death was, this time, the result of youthful inexperience. More universally, and more contemporarily, the poem states that shit happens because we don't pack umbrellas.
I apologise that I am unable to provide a bibliography source for the above poem, but vouch] for it's authenticity and accuracy. May God do so to me, and more also...
Further readings: dying is fine (but death "Advice to My Son," by Peter Meinke