Loveliest of trees, the cherry now : A poem By A.E.Housman

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

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

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

 

Since the poet believes he has just 50 years to go within the 70 years of life expectancy allotted to him, he better make most of it, he feels. carpe diem, as the old poet would say. How does he know he has full fifty years to go? Well that is what the Bible calculates as the average life of a man. Since he has completed twenty years of age he may yet have fifty left.

Interestingly fifty is also too few to look at the beauty of a cherry tree in bloom. Just now the tree is hung with bloom and the poet may better rush not to miss one spring of cherry tree in bloom,out of the fifty springs allotted to him.

The cherry tree is now hung with bloom by the woodland ride. It is Easter time now ,a spring for resurrection. The the tree is wearing white for Eastertide, celebrating Christ’s resurrection.

All is white and spring and the tree is hung with bough, white as snow. Pure snow as if the blossoms are not blossoms but heavy fruit with which the tree is bent low .

The tree has only fifty springs to show its white splendor.Not that the tree is twenty and has an allotted time span of fifty years. But the tree is beautiful only to the extent the poet, who has only fifty years left to his credit,watches and enjoys its beauty by the woodland ride.

While the general theme of making most of your day (carpe diem) is fairly simple, the poet builds into the poem the two sub themes . One is of course the mortality of humankind who will find their lives too brief to enjoy the infinite beauties present in nature . Beauty is recurrent phenomenon in nature with each spring bringing afresh new beauties, new life. The white snow of the cherry blossoms appears each spring as though it is enacting Christ’s resurrection at the Eastertide. The second sub-theme is that the beauties of nature occur each year irrespective of the mortality of the humans who admire them in song and poetry. The cherry tree now stands by the woodland ride but every year in spring it comes back with a bough heavy with blossoms. There is a theme of resurrection, irrespective of the “three score and ten” years life allotted to a human. The beauties of nature are timeless with the themes of death and resurrection being continually played out in its seasons.

Some interesting images are as follows:

a) The cherry now/Is hung with bloom

Cherry now refers to the spring season now,(April-May) when the cherry tree is in full bloom.

“Hung with bloom” suggests a mellow fruitfulness such as what Keats refers to in his Ode to Autumn, where the bough is bent with the heaviness of fruit. Here it is just bloom and the bough appears bent with the heaviness of bloom. The bough is so full of flowers that it looks as if it is bent under their weight.

“Hung with bloom” is a beautiful expression. “Cherry now” rhymes nicely with “along the bough” bringing out the symbiotic relationship of the “cherry now” with the “bough”

b) Wearing white for Eastertide.

A lovely image of the white cherry blossoms ,in which the bough looks like it is wearing white for the Eastertide. Every spring the tree blooms in white as if it is celebrating Christ’s Resurrection, a time for wearing white.

Wearing white is an evocative expression suggesting white purity of the clothes worn for the Eastertide.

c) Fifty springs are little room

To look at things in bloom, fifty springs are a little too short in one’s life.You have only one spring in a year and the beauty of the bloom lasts only for a short while and for their return you have to wait for the next spring.