Compare and contrast the following poems, "To An Athlete Dying Young" by A.E. Housman (1859-1936) and "Ex-Basketball Player" by John Updike (born 1932)

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1. Compare and contrast the following poems, “To An Athlete Dying Young” by A.E. Housman (1859-1936) and “Ex-Basketball Player” by John Updike (born 1932)

Both “ To an Athlete Dying Young” and “Ex-Basketball Player” deal with the former athletes’ glorious past when the runner in the first poem died and the basketball player in the second poem retired. However,  ironically, the fame of the athlete who died at a young age remains while the fame of the ex-basketball player fade with his age.


Firstly,  “ To an Athlete Dying Young” is addressed to the athlete himself as we can see from “To”, and “you” and “your”, the speaker is directly speaking to him, telling him how they as supporters “chaired: him and honored him. In the first sentence of the first stanza, the athelete is already been addressed, thus there is a sense of sincerity and respect from the speaker. Even though he has died, people still remember him and gives him the glory. The “Ex-Basketball Player”, however, uses third person narration, and we notice that the poem begins with the description of an ordinary and unattractive urbane place, and it is only at the end of the first stanza, “Flick Webb”, the athlete is introduced, this shows the insignificance of the athlete in people’s heart, and gives us a feeling that when retired, the athlete is been forgotten by the town. From “on the corner facing west…you’ll find Flick Webb” further shows the fact that he is no longer the centre of people’s focus, and it is only occasionally, people may be able to remember him.

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Both poems show the view that fame dies very fast. In “To an Athlete Dying Young”, a metaphor is used to compare glory to the “rose”, which is a symbol of beauty and fragility, (“it withers quicker than the rose”) The fact that fame is compared to a living thing shows that it is natural for it to “grow” and “die”, and it is a continual process since people are getting famous and then gradually be forgotten and the cycle continues. However, it is different for the athlete who died young, since he has not completed the “fame ...

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