(Poem #377) Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
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.
'A Shropshire Lad', Poem II. First, the obligatory Brittanica excerpt: "Apparently convinced that he must live without love, Housman became increasingly reclusive and for solace turned to his notebooks, in which he had begun to write the poems that eventually made up A Shropshire Lad (1896). For models he claimed the poems of Heinrich Heine, the songs of William Shakespeare, and the Scottish border ballads. Each provided him with a way of expressing emotion clearly and yet keeping it at a certain distance. For the same purpose, he assumed in his lyrics the unlikely role of farm labourer and set them in Shropshire, a county he had not yet visited when he began to write the first poems. The popularity of A Shropshire Lad grew slowly but so surely that Last Poems (1922) had astonishing success for a book of verse. " The poems in A Shropshire Lad are instantly recognizable for their delicate, airy touch and their Romantic melancholy - in them, Housman captures a particular mood and a particular period with exquisite skill and charm. The verse itself is uneven at best - while pieces like 'Loveliest of Trees' and 'White in the Moon' (the first Housman I read, and still my favourite) are justly celebrated, others are eminently forgettable. Nonetheless, the collection as a whole seems assured of a place among the greats, and I for one am not going to cavil at that. thomas. PS. As you may have guessed, cherry blossom season is just starting here in Japan, and the nation is going through its annual spiritual rebirth. There's a wonderful haiku by Basho about plum-blossoms which I sent out around this time last year; you can read it at poem #56 PPS. The poem I mentioned: 'White in the Moon the long road lies That leads me from my Love.' is archived at poem #33