Godley is the eldest son of Rev. James Godley, rector of Carrigallen, County Leitrim, and Eliza Frances Godley (née La Touche). After attending Tilney Basset’s preparatory school in Dublin, he goes to Harrow College and Balliol College, Oxford, graduating BA in 1878. At Oxford he becomes known for his classical scholarship and wins several prizes, including the Craven scholarship and the Gaisford Prize for Greek Verse. In 1879 he is appointed assistant classical master at Bradfield College. He returns to Oxford in 1883 as tutor and fellow of Magdalen College (1883–1912). Serving as deputy public orator of Oxford (1904–06), he is elected public orator in 1910, a post he holds until his death.
Godley also enjoys renown as a writer of satiric verse and prose, beginning his literary career as a contributor to The Oxford Magazine in 1883. In 1890 he becomes its editor, and two years later publishes his first book of poems, Verses to Order (1892). Later publications include Lyra Frivola (1899), Second Strings (1902) and The Casual Ward (1912). His work is very popular and two volumes, Reliquiae (1926) and Fifty Poems (1927), are published posthumously. He also publishes numerous works of serious scholarship including Socrates and Athenian Society in His Day (1896) and Oxford in the Eighteenth Century (1908). Noted as a translator of Herodotus, Tacitus, and Horace, he serves as joint-editor of The Classical Review (1910–20). He also edits and publishes volumes of the poetry of Thomas Moore and Winthrop Mackworth Praed.
Active in political life, Godley serves as an alderman on Oxford City Council. During the Second Boer War (1899–1901) he organises volunteer forces, commanding a battalion of the 4th Oxfordshire Light Infantry (1900–05). He serves in this capacity again during World War I and is lieutenant-colonel of the Oxfordshire Volunteer Corps (1916–19). A staunch unionist, during the Home Rule Crisis, he supports the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and writes some political verse, notably The Arrest, which is popular among unionists. A pioneer in the sport of mountaineering, he is a founding member of the Alpine Club and a committee member (1908–11). He is also a member of the governing body of Harrow School. Towards the end of his career he is awarded honorary doctorates from Princeton (1913) and Oxford (1919).
In 1894 Godley marries Amy Hope Cay, daughter of Charles Hope Cay, fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. They have no children.
(From: “Godley, Alfred Denis” by David Murphy, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie, October 2009)