The Theme of Mutability in "To an Athlete Dying Young" and "Ode to the West Wind"

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Time and the human condition are elements that make up the theme of mutability. As time passes human beings change, things are lost and aging occurs. A.E Houseman in his poem "To an Athlete Dying Young" goes against the typically held ideas about death while also presenting a classic idea that aging causes glory to fade. In "Ode to the West Wind," Percy Bysshe Shelly communicates the theme of mutability in ways both similar and dissimilar to Houseman's poem. Shelly combines images of life and death, plays with time and also with tone in his poem. It is evident through their poems that both Houseman and Shelly share the belief that death is not necessarily a complete tragedy. Houseman in "To An Athlete Dying Young" uses a changing tone to express his attitude toward the passage of time, aging and death. Houseman's poem begins with a positive, energetic tone that suddenly turns dark and sad in the second stanza. "To an Athlete Dying Young" begins with vibrant life and celebration of excellent athleticism as a victorious runner has returned home to be "chaired through the market place" (l. 2). The physical description of the runner's position in line two is high. This contributes to the high, cheerful tone that Houseman begins his poem with. Houseman's turn in tone occurs suddenly as the second stanza opens with the young athlete's funeral procession. The athlete is again being held, "shoulder-high" but not in a positive, cheerful way this time. After the sudden turn from images of happy, celebrated life in the first stanza to one of death in the second Houseman starts his third stanza with an argument. In this argument, Houseman communicates a widely traditional idea about growing older; any glory or fame associated with something physical like athleticism fades with age. Making the runner in "To an Athlete Dying Young" lucky because he will not have to experience
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