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"Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now" by A. E. Housman first appeared in his collection of poems, The Shropshire Lad, in 1896. Housman himself was one of the leading classical scholars of his period, and was strongly influenced by Hellenistic poetry, such as the Idylls of Theocritus, and Latin authors, especially Horace.
The poem consists of three quatrains of iambic tetrameter rhymed in couplets, i.e. AABB. Many of even lines of the poem are catalectic (missing a weak syllable). As this missing syllable is at the beginning, the term "acephalous" is often used. An example of this is Line 6: "Twenty will not come again."
The poem's theme is of the genre known as "carpe diem" (Latin for "seize the day", taken from Horace, Ode I.11), emphasizing that as the future is uncertain, one should enjoy the present as much as possible.
The first stanza of the poem describes the cherries blooming along a woodland path. This is a fleeting beauty as cherry blooms last a maximum of two weeks, and often less.
The second stanza reminds us that people, like cherries, are mortal and have only a limited lifespan.
Thus the third and final stanza concludes that the narrator should enjoy the cherry blooms while he can in light of both his own mortality and the short duration of the flowers themselves.
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