Loveliest of Trees from Shropshire Lad II
Housman’s poem is about the nature of life, here represented by the cherry tree. The poet feels he does not have enough time to appreciate this beautiful world, because, like all living things, he will die. The first stanza is a description of the cherry tree in its spring-time splendor. It is as ‘wearing white for Eastertide” as if it is celebrating a religious festival. In the second stanza, the mood shifts from the tree to the poet himself, as he thinks about the inevitability of death. He, a twenty-year old, estimates that he has about fifty years left to live. The final stanza expresses the poet’s feeling that fifty more years does not give him enough time to enjoy the beauties of nature. He decides that he will look at the cherry tree not only when it is “hung with bloom,” but also in winter when it is “hung with snow.” The poet thus celebrates the beauties of nature in all seasons, but also poignantly laments the inevitable passage from youth to old age and death, the “seasons” of his own life.
I composed this setting of “Loveliest of Trees” to celebrate the 86th birthday of Joyce Hope Suskind, beloved friend, brilliant musician and composer par excellence.
A Shropshire Lad 2: Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
By A. E. Housman
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
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.