In the poem, "Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now" what is the present age of the poet and what is the earlier one?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In A. E. Housman’s poem “Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now,” the narrator is 20 years old at the time of narration.  There is no earlier age given.

There are three numbers mentioned in this poem, but only one of them is actually an age that the narrator is or has been.  The three numbers are 70 (also stated as threescore and ten), 20, and 50.  The narrator says

Now, of my threescore years and ten, / Twenty will not come again,

Please note, however, that this does not mean that the narrator is now 70 years old.  When he (presumably, though there is nothing to indicate the sex of the narrator other than that Housman was male) says this, he is alluding to the biblical saying that human beings are given 70 years of life.  So “my threescore years and ten” refers to the 70 years that he is expected to live.  Of those 70 years, “twenty will not come again,” meaning that he has lived 20 years.

The poem then refers to 50 springs.  If the narrator has 70 years of life and has lived 20 of them, he has 50 years left.  All of this goes to show that the narrator’s “present age” is 20 years old and there is no “earlier one.”

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Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now

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