Asking a question or making a comment

Since I first put this material up on the web in 1993 or thereabouts (before there even was a web to speak of) there have been hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of downloads from the various sites that have hosted it; it has almost never been advertised, so this is a tribute to the power of search engines and to the navigability of the web. I've received some thousands of e-mails as a result.

Many people have written to thank me: thanks for writing. I'm always glad to hear from people who've found the site useful. It's not the most comprehensive or largest poetry site on the net any more, but it does still seem to have a function, and I'm glad of that. If you write to thank me, I will try to acknowledge your message, time permitting. If I don't, be sure that I'm still glad to hear from you. Similarly, I am glad to receive comments on the text, news of typos and so on, and will respond to them as quickly as I can.

Others have written asking for the name of a particular poem or where to find the text. Often I know the answer; if I don't, I'll write back straight away and say that I don't. I'm happy to do this sort of thing. (If you're looking for the complete text or author of a poem not on my site, be sure to try typing any words of the poem you can remember into a search engine like Google. This is the first thing I will do when I get your message, and while I'm happy to astound people who haven't yet heard of search engines with my omniscience, you may want to save yourself time and trouble.)

But: I also get a number of e-mails asking me things like

My teacher has asked me to dissect these poems by Housman. I don't understand anything about them. Could you please write four short essays about each one and explain what each of them is about? Thanks. PS I really need this by next Tuesday.
Please tell me when all your poems were published, because I need to know this information for a project for school. Thank you
I am not making these up; they are (slightly edited) versions of real messages I've received. I couldn't resist adding this little gem, sent to me some time after I wrote the original version of this page; spelling and punctuation are the original's:
HI i would like to have a critical analysis on W.Byeats on his poem he wishes for the clothes of heaven .the ryme ,rithem and the parallalisim.thanks

If you are thinking of asking me something like this, please think about these points first.

I'm not saying I will never answer any question that arises out of your homework. If you find a particular part of a poem obscure, for example, I'm quite happy to answer questions like
What do the lines `Eyes the shady night has shut / Cannot see the record cut' mean in Housman's `To an athlete dying young'?
because it's possible that I know the answer and you don't; the answer here is a matter of fact, after all. (Housman's generation used to talk about a record being `cut' where we would say `broken'.) Similarly I may be able to answer biographical questions about the authors (see my mini-faq on Housman for some frequently asked questions with their answers). In general, the more specific the question is, the more likely you are to get a speedy answer. But I will not answer any question where it appears you're trying to get me to do large amounts of library work that you could do yourself, nor any question where you seem to want to use my interpretation of the poem where the teacher wants yours. I'm afraid I probably won't even answer the e-mail. Let me try to spell this out as clearly as possible, because this comes up again and again: I will not under any circumstances reply to e-mail that asks me to tell you the `meaning' of a poem.

If you still want to ask me something, you can form my e-mail address by joining the name `mhardcastle' to the address `' using an at sign. This is not an intelligence test, it's simply to try to reduce the vast amount of spam I receive. Oh, one more thing; please check that your mail software is set up to put a correct return address for you in mail you send me; there's nothing more irritating than writing a long reply and having it vanish into the aether.

Thanks for reading this. If you've been put off sufficiently, go back to