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

By Dr Oliver Tearle

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

You are watching: Loveliest of trees the cherry now


The second poem in Housman’s perennially famous A Shropshire Lad, the poem that starts ‘Loveliest of trees, the cherry now’, is just one of his many widely anthologised poems. Below is the poem, with some notes towards an analysis of its definition and language.

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


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

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


The city sees the speaker showing on the truth that, at 20 years of age, the only has actually fifty of his threescore years and ten (i.e. Seventy years, which the scriptures states as the average size of a masculine life) remaining. The cherry tree is in complete bloom, all follow me its boughs and branches, together it does yearly when that comes into flower.

Because time is short, the speak announces the he will appreciate the cherry flower while he’s approximately to perform 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 popular English poet, whose an initial volume that poems, A Shropshire Lad, was a favourite book among young male soldiers fighting in the an excellent War. The publication was a bestseller, and poems favor ‘Loveliest that Trees’ – with their feeling of wistfulness in ~ the brevity of human life and the quickness through which one year gives means to an additional – are amongst the many emblematic poems in this 63-poem collection.

‘Loveliest that Trees’ is, then, miscellaneous of a carpe diem poem (urging united state to ‘seize the day’ and also 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 that we are going to dice someday).


These two definitions softly administer a backdrop to Housman’s description of the lad walking along the ‘woodland ride’ (a ‘ride’ being a course meant because that horses) and admiring the white cherry flower on the trees.

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


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

The metaphorical description of the white cherry blossom together ‘snow’ in the poem’s last heat reinforces this idea of fresh starts, eye being a renowned symbol for purity, for washing points clean. This paves the method for the poem’s message: the the speaker will embrace a brand-new approach come life, and try to do the many of the fifty years he approximates he has remaining ~ above this planet.


‘Loveliest the Trees’ offers, in the last analysis, a fresh take on one old message. The idea the our time is quick on this planet was not original to A. E. Housman, of course. But his emphasis on a particular phenomenon glimpsed for only a short time throughout the year brings home the reality to us.

Fifty years left ~ above this planet may seem favor quite a generous number come a young man. Yet only fifty an ext chances to watch the cherry trees favor this?

One last note on this city may help to decide a factor for the perennial popularity of Housman. His city is technically accomplished, if not innovative: here, he provides quatrains the rhyming couplets (aabb) and iambic tetrameter metre (although the opening lines that the poem, ‘Loveliest of trees’, lead united state in with a strong heavy stress and a trochaic substitution).

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

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

True, there’s many of unrequited love and also untimely death in Housman’s poetry, yet the very first is frequently tempered through the knowledge that true love survives being rebuffed through the one us love (as a poem favor ‘Because I preferred you better’ demonstrates) and also the last by a sneaking suspicion that dying young is the best way: the it’s much better to burn out 보다 fade far (as a poem prefer ‘To an Athlete dying Young’ states).

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

Continue to check out Housman’s poetry through our choose of his finest poems and also discover more English nostalgia v Edward Thomas’s wonderful poetry. The finest affordable version of Housman’s job-related is Collected Poems and also Selected Prose (Twentieth Century Classics).

See more: How Long Is Ham Good In The Fridge, Ham Handling, Safety & Storage

The author of this article, Dr Oliver Tearle, is a literature critic and also lecturer in English at Loughborough University. That is the writer of, among others, The an enig Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey through Curiosities that History

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