Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now

by A. E. Housman

Start Free Trial

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

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial