literature A Short analysis of A. E. Housman’s ‘Loveliest that Trees, the Cherry Now’

By Dr Oliver Tearle

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) didn’t write a good deal that poetry. As soon as he died, he had published simply two slim volumes, A Shropshire Lad (published in ~ his own expense in 1896) and the fittingly title Last Poems (1922).

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The second poem in Housman’s perennially well-known A Shropshire Lad, the city that starts ‘Loveliest of trees, the cherry now’, is just one of his most widely anthologised poems. Below is the poem, v some notes towards an evaluation of its definition and language.

Loveliest of trees, the cherry nowIs hung through bloom follow me the bough,And stands around the woodland rideWearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of mine threescore years and also ten,Twenty will not come again,And take it from seventy springs a score,It just leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at at things in bloomFifty springs are tiny room,About the woodlands I will goTo view the cherry hung v snow.

The city sees the speaker mirroring on the fact that, at two decades of age, he only has fifty the his threescore years and ten (i.e. Seventy years, i beg your pardon the bible states together the average size of a masculine life) remaining. The cherry tree is in full bloom, all follow me its boughs and also branches, together it does yearly when that comes right into flower.

Because time is short, the speaker announces the he will certainly appreciate the cherry blossom while he’s about to execute so – and make the many of his time on Earth.

(Note: a ride is a path made for civilization riding on horseback, especially through woodlands.)

‘Loveliest the trees’: analysis

Housman remains a well-known English poet, whose first volume the poems, A Shropshire Lad, to be a favourite book among young male soldiers fighting in the good War. The publication was a bestseller, and also poems favor ‘Loveliest of Trees’ – with their sense of wistfulness in ~ the brevity of human life and also the quickness through which one year gives means to an additional – are amongst the most emblematic poems in this 63-poem collection.

‘Loveliest that Trees’ is, then, miscellaneous of a carpe diem poem (urging us to ‘seize the day’ and also enjoy life while we can) and also, like plenty of of A. E. Housman’s poems, miscellaneous of a memento mori (i.e. A reminder that we are going to dice someday).

These two meanings softly carry out a background to Housman’s summary of the lad walking follow me the ‘woodland ride’ (a ‘ride’ being a path meant for horses) and admiring the white cherry flower on the trees.

The poem’s setting of Easter time (‘Eastertide’) reminds us of the springtime when the cherry comes into blossom, yet the whiteness that the cherry tree (wearing white in ~ Easter is a Christian tradition; here nature seems to have embraced the custom) additionally suggests purity, fresh beginnings, and also rebirth, things associated with springtime (and renewal obviously gift a main part that the Easter story).

And due to the fact that to watch at points in bloomFifty springs are small room,About the woodlands I will certainly goTo watch the cherry hung through snow.

The metaphorical description of the white cherry blossom as ‘snow’ in the poem’s last heat reinforces this idea of new starts, snow being a well-known symbol because that purity, for washing things clean. This paves the way for the poem’s message: the the speak will adopt a new approach to life, and try to do the most of the fifty years he estimates he has actually remaining on this planet.

‘Loveliest that Trees’ offers, in the last analysis, a fresh take it on an old message. The idea the our time is quick on this planet was not original to A. E. Housman, the course. However his emphasis on a particular phenomenon glimpsed for just a brief time during the year brings house the reality to us.

Fifty years left ~ above this planet may seem prefer quite a generosity number to a young man. But only fifty much more chances to watch the cherry trees prefer this?

One final note top top this city may assist to decide a reason for the perennial popular of Housman. His poetry is technically accomplished, if not innovative: here, he provides quatrains that rhyming couplets (aabb) and also iambic tetrameter metre (although the opened lines of the poem, ‘Loveliest that trees’, lead united state in through a strong heavy stress and also a trochaic substitution).

One marvels whether Robert Frost had this poem in mind once he wrote his ‘Stopping by Woods top top a Snowy Evening’ (a poem also featuring tree – and quite literal snow – making use of iambic tetrameter quatrains). Indeed, in that city Frost is talk a horse, lot as the Lad in Housman’s poem is stand on a backwoods ride.

But this is not the reason Housman endures – in ~ least, not the chef reason. Over there is a strong mixture that wistfulness and stoicism in his poetry, which gives the lie come the idea the he is a boring or self-pitying poet.

True, there’s lot of of unrequited love and untimely death in Housman’s poetry, yet the an initial is frequently tempered by the understanding that true love survives gift rebuffed by the one we love (as a poem prefer ‘Because I favored you better’ demonstrates) and the last by a sneaking hesitation that dice young is the ideal way: the it’s far better to burn out than fade far (as a poem favor ‘To an Athlete dice Young’ states).

In other words, Housman’s outlook is far much more stoic 보다 many human being believe. And also the final stanza that ‘Loveliest the trees, the cherry now’ nicely catches this, as the Shropshire Lad resolves to make the most of his narrow expectancy – his threescore and also ten, or at least the twoscore and also ten that stay to him – and enjoy what the world, and also the human being of nature, needs to offer him throughout the time continuing to be to him.

Continue to explore Housman’s poetry v our pick of his finest poems and discover more English nostalgia with Edward Thomas’s wonderful poetry. The best affordable version of Housman’s occupational is Collected Poems and also Selected Prose (Twentieth Century Classics).

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The writer of this article, Dr Oliver Tearle, is a literary critic and lecturer in English at Loughborough University. He is the writer of, among others, The mystery Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey through Curiosities that History

 and The good War, The waste Land and the Modernist lengthy Poem.