literary works A Short evaluation of A. E. Housman’s ‘Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now’

By Dr Oliver Tearle

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) didn’t compose a an excellent deal of poetry. Once he died, he had published simply two slim volumes, A Shropshire Lad (published in ~ his own cost in 1896) and also the fittingly title Last Poems (1922).

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The 2nd poem in Housman’s perennially famous A Shropshire Lad, the city that starts ‘Loveliest that trees, the cherry now’, is one of his many 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 with bloom follow me the bough,And stands around the backwoods rideWearing white for Eastertide.

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

And because to look at things in bloomFifty springs are little room,About the woodlands I will certainly goTo view the cherry hung with snow.

The city sees the speaker showing on the reality that, at twenty years of age, that only has actually fifty of his threescore years and also ten (i.e. Seventy years, which the scriptures states together the average length of a man’s life) remaining. The cherry tree is in complete bloom, all along its boughs and also branches, as it does yearly when that comes into flower.

Because time is short, the speak announces that he will appreciate the cherry blossom while he’s around to carry out so – and also make the many of his time top top Earth.

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

‘Loveliest that trees’: analysis

Housman continues to be a famous English poet, whose very first volume the poems, A Shropshire Lad, was a favourite book among young male soldiers fighting in the an excellent War. The book was a bestseller, and also poems favor ‘Loveliest the Trees’ – through their feeling of wistfulness at the brevity of person life and also the quickness v which one year gives method to an additional – are amongst the many emblematic poems in this 63-poem collection.

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

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

The poem’s setup of Easter time (‘Eastertide’) reminds united state of the springtime once the cherry comes into blossom, however the whiteness of the cherry trees (wearing white in ~ Easter is a Christian tradition; below nature appears to have embraced the custom) likewise suggests purity, new beginnings, and rebirth, things connected with springtime (and renewal obviously being a main part of the Easter story).

And because to watch at things in bloomFifty springs are tiny room,About the woodlands I will goTo check out the cherry hung with snow.

The metaphorical summary of the white cherry blossom together ‘snow’ in the poem’s last line reinforces this idea of new starts, eye being a famous symbol because that purity, because that washing points clean. This paves the means for the poem’s message: that the speak will take on a brand-new approach to life, and shot to do the many of the fifty year he estimates he has remaining on this planet.

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

Fifty year left top top this planet might seem choose quite a generosity number come a young man. But only fifty an ext chances to see the cherry trees choose this?

One last note ~ above this city may assist to accurately decide a factor for the perennial popularity of Housman. His city is technically accomplished, if not innovative: here, he supplies quatrains the rhyming couplets (aabb) and also iambic tetrameter metre (although the opening lines of the poem, ‘Loveliest the trees’, lead us in through a strong heavy stress and also a trochaic substitution).

One marvels whether Robert Frost had this poem in mind as soon as he wrote his ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ (a poem also featuring trees – and also quite literal eye – making use of iambic tetrameter quatrains). Indeed, in that city Frost is speak a horse, much as the Lad in Housman’s poem is standing on a forest ride.

But this is no the factor Housman endures – at least, no the cook reason. There is a strong mixture of wistfulness and stoicism in his poetry, which provides the lie come the idea that he is a depressing or self-pitying poet.

True, there’s many of unrequited love and also untimely fatality in Housman’s poetry, but the an initial is frequently tempered by the knowledge that true love survives being rebuffed by the one us love (as a poem like ‘Because I preferred you better’ demonstrates) and the latter by a sneaking hesitation that dice young is the finest way: that it’s far better to burn out than fade far (as a poem favor ‘To an Athlete dice Young’ states).

In various other words, Housman’s outlook is far an ext stoic than many civilization believe. And also the final stanza that ‘Loveliest the trees, the cherry now’ nicely catches this, as the Shropshire Lad resolves to make the many of his narrow span – his threescore and ten, or at least the twoscore and also ten that remain to the – and also 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 discover Housman’s poetry through our pick of his finest poems and also discover more English nostalgia with Edward Thomas’s exorbitant poetry. The ideal affordable edition of Housman’s work is Collected Poems and Selected Prose (Twentieth Century Classics).

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The writer of this article, Dr Oliver Tearle, is a literary critic and also lecturer in English at Loughborough University. That is the writer of, amongst others, The secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey with Curiosities the History

 and The an excellent War, The garbage Land and the Modernist long Poem.