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.
A E Housman A Shropshire Lad
The Loveliest of Trees is the second poem from the Shropshire Lad cycle, and probably the one best known. It is easy from today’s perspective to dismiss the apparent simplicity, sometimes ditty-like quality of these poems. But Housman was a scholar of Olympian proportions, an atheist too and, it is said, suffering in love for a man who could never love him in return. Sensibilities run deep here.
The verses speak of love and loss and going to war; the fleetingness of things; all set against landscapes seen only in the mind’s eye, or as if looking from a long way off across time and space. There are many voices too, even ghostly ones, the sense of old country airs remembered. It is not surprising that they spoke so compellingly to composers who then set many of the poems to music: George Butterworth (Bredon Hill and Other Songs), Ralph Vaughan Williams (On Wenlock Edge), Ivor Gurney (The Western Playland), Samuel Barber (With rue my heart is laden ) to name a few.
Here is Butterworth’s evocation of the cherry tree, sung with perfect poise by Roderick Williams. If you choose to listen you may imagine Shropshire here today. As I write this we are having flurries of light snow just like falling cherry blossom.
Butterworth: Six Songs from ‘A Shropshire Lad’ (Excerpt) – BBC Proms 2014 – YouTube
26 thoughts on ““Loveliest Of Trees, The Cherry Now…”
so very beautiful, not sure about the flurries of snow though!
They’ve gone now. Am hoping they’ll stay that way.
We had about 3 seconds worth down here, and looks like tomorrow is going to be much warmer again. So fingers crossed
OH says it is snowing in Shropshire this morning. Sadly snow and frost are not good for the fruit trees!
He is another musician who has set some of Housman’s verses to song, https://davidaharley.bandcamp.com/album/tears-of-morning-2 if you fancy a listen to his version of Bredon Hill and Tears of Morning.
Yep, snowy flurries, though sun at this moment. And thank you, Jude, for the link to David’s creations. A very lovely voice.
Thank you Tish. He’ll be happy that you enjoyed his songs.
Will pop back there in a minute. In the meantime I am trying to find a link to the spam file. Am I having a brain blip?
If you click on the link in my comment it should take you to the songs.
I found the spam folder in the end, thanks, Jude. Now I can go back to the songs, whose grace and loveliness one surely needs after viewing the contents of the spam folder!
Ah, spam folders are not the nicest of places are they. Need to cleanse the mind after a visit.
I love when the cherry blossoms burst forth.
Love the cherry and Shropshire Lad post.
Glad you like this, Sherry.
The poem made me wonder if he beat the odds and enjoyed more than three score and ten – he did!
Yes, he did, Susan.
What is it about Easter that brings out the snow? 🤗💕 That blossom is so delicate and lovely.
It’s a bit much, the snow. More forecast tomorrow evening. Spring greetings to you, nonetheless, Jo. Tx
What a voice! Usually we talk about blossoms falling like snow, but you reversed that nicely and such beautiful shots.
Many thanks, Janet, for that touching comment.
Very beautiful blossoms, Tish. Your photos remind me the cherry bloosoms we saw in DC three years ago.
There’s something blissful about cherry blossom. I can understand why the Japanese are so in love with it.
Housman during his zen period! It’s a terrific poem – deceptively simple.
I’ve come to think quite a lot of Housman in recent years. As a stripling reading A Shropshire Lad, I somehow heard the rhymes but missed the resonances.
I was a bit of a late-comer to poetry and so although I knew of Housman (how could you not when you come from Shropshire?) I’ve tended to defer to other’s opinions about him. I’m pretty sure it’s the rhyme that does put many readers off. And rhyme is so hard to get right of course, especially when it’s very simple and direct. But the rhymes don’t jar at all (in my view) and their simplicity adds if anything. It all resonants with me in any case!
There are Housman connections with Out of Africa – filmic/fictive etc. Here’s a post I wrote earlier. For some weird reason literally hundreds of people have been reading it over the past few days – algorithms gone bananas? Who knows. https://tishfarrell.com/2014/10/28/quoting-creatively-the-out-of-africa-connection/