Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now

by A. E. Housman

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What is the theme of A.E.Housman's poem "Loveliest of Trees"?

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The theme of this short, sweet nineteenth-century (1896) poem is most associated with seventeenth-century poetry. It is the theme of carpe diem, or "seize the day."

The narrator first talks about how lovely it is to see the cherry bough in bloom in spring. He then notes that he is twenty years old and can expect to live to seventy. This leaves him only fifty more opportunities to see the cherry trees in bloom. Since fifty years is not much time, he says that he will make a point of walking through the woods to see the cherry blossoms. As he puts it in the last stanza:

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.

The poem is saying we should live mindfully, taking note of the beauty around us and enjoying it will we can, for life is short. If we don't make it a priority to take in the simple pleasures of life, we will miss them.

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The theme of the poem is the idea that time is fleeting and one must take as much opportunity as possible to enjoy what is present in one's lifetime.  The opening stanza speaks of the natural beauty of the blooming cherry blossom tree.  The second stanza indicates that time is fleeting, and the time to enjoy the blossoming will only happen one more time each year for the rest of his life, which he estimates at fifty more years.  While the speaker should take advantage of this and enjoy it while it blooms each season, it would also bring him happiness if he was able to observe its beauty even in winter, when "hung with snow."  The poem does stress the theme of appreciation of nature and of life in its natural beauty.  Yet, it also stresses that there are more opportunities to experience this joy even when elements of existence are not in their most natural beauteous state.  The speaker suggests that by seeing the tree in the winter, he will be able to experience it more than simply one time in the year.  Time will always pass and the speaker cannot change that.  This is why the moments and experiences that are joyous in one instant can also possess beauty when we partake in them as often as possible.  The theme of life's experiences being felt in any and all conditions seems to be the theme of the poem.

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