Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
“Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now” is one of the finest examples of Housman’s lyrical poems. The rural setting of the Shropshire woodlands in springtime is a beautiful sight, to behold, with the cherry tree—the loveliest of trees—in full white bloom to celebrate the time of rebirth and rejuvenation associated with Easter. Yet the beauty strikes a chord of melancholy in the speaker, who realizes that life is indeed short; and even if he lives to his full life expectancy, that, too, will be too short a time to behold such splendor as these trees in bloom.
While there is present the popular carpe diem theme in “Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now,” Housman adds to it a somber sense of impending doom as the speaker resolves to view the beauty of the world while he is yet alive. The attitude and the mood that it creates is typically Housman, in that even in the face of immense beauty, there is always the discomfort of knowing that life has no real permanence, that death and doom are, without question, imminent.