Thursday, March 05, 2009

Housman, Shropshire, and Cherry Blossoms

Homework can be fun--I'm reading A.E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad in prep for my trip in June. It's a cycle of 63 poems that he self-published in 1896--the collection slowly grew in popularity and has been continuously in print since publication.

According to Wikipedia:
The poems are pervaded by deep pessimism and preoccupation with death, without religious consolation. Housman wrote most of them while living in Highgate, London, before ever visiting that part of Shropshire (about thirty miles from his home), which he presented in an idealised pastoral light, as his 'land of lost content'. Housman himself acknowledged the influence of the songs of William Shakespeare, the Scottish Border Ballads and Heinrich Heine, but specifically denied any influence of Greek and Latin classics in his poetry.

Here's one near the beginning, which I instantly recognized from my childhood poetry books.

Loveliest of Trees
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.


  1. I used to love that cherry tree poem! It's been a while since I read poetry, though. Maybe I should buy a volume.

  2. So far, the cherry tree poem is one of the best. The poems do seem very dated to me.