Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now

by A. E. Housman

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Exploring the theme, summary, and attitude towards life in A. E. Housman's poem "Loveliest of Trees"


The theme of "Loveliest of Trees" by A. E. Housman is to seize the day, emphasizing the fleeting nature of time and the importance of appreciating life's beauty. The poem describes the narrator's resolve to enjoy the cherry blossoms each spring, recognizing that his time to do so is limited. It encourages living mindfully and finding joy in nature throughout all seasons.

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

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

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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Summarize A. E. Housman's poem "Loveliest of Trees".

A, E. Housman writes about making the most of the moment in his poem “The Loveliest of Trees.” No one will live forever, so squeeze every possible minute of the enjoyment of nature.

The setting of the poem is Easter, and spring has brought the lovely cherry trees to bloom.  The poet is riding in a carriage or on horseback  in a rural area. The narration is first person with the poet as the speaker.


The first stanza describes a beautiful scene.  The cherry trees are so covered with blossoms that the branches hang down from their bounty. 

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough,

And stands about the woodland ride

Wearing white for Eastertide.

The trees stand along the way as the speaker goes for a ride.  It is the perfect setting for the Easter time with the trees wearing their white.  The speaker implies a connection to the religious time and the white of the trees symbolizing the purity and innocence of Christ.

In the second stanza, we learn that the speaker is a little more than twenty years old. Of his "threescore years and ten" (seventy years--the life expectancy of man laid out in Psalms 90 of the Bible), he will only have fifty more years to enjoy the beauty of the earth.

The third stanza explains that fifty years is really not enough time to relish the beauty of the earth, the spring, and the lovely cherry trees.  Using a clever idea, he will be able to observe the cherry trees in winter as well as spring. In winter, the trees will be covered in white, but this will be snow; in spring, they are covered with the luscious white blooms. He will travel again in the woodland area to take in the beauty of the cherry trees.

The poet conveys the idea that spring does not have the monopoly on beauty for the seasons.  Each season has its own kind of glory. The fall has the leaves; the winter its snow; the summer its flowers; and the spring its green---all are a part of the landscape which in itself is a work of art.

Life is short, and travels rapidly by. The only thing a person can do is relish each moment that he has.  Be excited about life and its beauty.  Nature will go on whether one enjoys it or not.  Nature is indifferent to man and does not wait on man to enjoy its loveliness.  The speaker will appreciate the spring and the exquisite trees as long as he walks the earth. 

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What is A. E. Housman's attitude towards life in the poem "Loveliest of Trees"?

Housman, as throughout the poems of "A Shropshire Lad," sees life as fleeting and therefore to be enjoyed when one can do so, before it's too late. The view expressed is that of a young man who already recognizes, at the age of twenty (because in biblical terms a man is supposed to be granted 70 years to live—"three score years and ten") that he only has fifty more springs to view the cherry trees. He must therefore take advantage of all the time that remains, and not miss the beautiful cherry blossoms when they are to be seen.

In spite of a theme that's tinged with melancholy as it is, the tone of the poem is actually much less dark and pessimistic than that of "A Shropshire Lad" as a whole. The speaker is basically joyful, stating that life does have more to offer than pain and regret, a message which one would not gather from Housman's poetry in general.

A significant point, nonetheless, is that the speaker is seeing the cherry boughs in spring "hung with snow" and "wearing white for Eastertide." In other words, the signs of winter have lingered. Even here, when the beauty of nature is the speaker's focus, it's a beauty that is ambiguous in a way, because it is draped in the snow of winter. Housman's message is arguably that the darkness, the cold of what for many people is the saddest season of the year, still haunts us even at Easter, a time of renewal.

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What is A. E. Housman's attitude towards life in the poem "Loveliest of Trees"?

In this poem, Housman shows a "carpe diem" attitude towards life.  He realizes that life is short and, because of that, he believes that we should try to live life to the fullest.  We should go out and enjoy everything life has to offer because life will end too soon (even if we live to an old age).

In the poem, Housman uses the idea of looking at cherry blossoms to stand in for experiencing everything life has to offer.  He talks about how even fifty more years of life is not enough to "look at things in bloom" -- that is, to do all the things that he would like to do.  Therefore, he says, he will go out and do as much as he can.

As this shows, Housman's attitude towards life in this poem is that life is short and that people should, therefore, grab it with both hands and enjoy it while they can.

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