In honor of A.E. Housman's birthday (March 26) and in honor of spring--herewith.
Loveliest of trees, the cherry nowI have used this poem many times in teaching poetry. It is an utterly charming poem, and most accessible. One of the first questions I ask is--how old is the speaker in the poem? Well, how old?
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.
Maybe you all are too smart to be fooled, but invariably I would have students say--seventy. No, I say, look again. So then I can see them doing the math--three score year and ten, well that's 70. And they subtract 20 ("will not come again") and say--fifty.
No, close reading now. AHA--the light goes on and they answer--twenty.
Oh, such a young man is that speaker. He has enjoyed spring cherry blossoms for twenty years. It is almost ironic that the VOICE of the poem is a far older, maybe wiser, voice than twenty years might suggest. I think the speaker sounds more like someone who is three score years and ten.
Whatever age--enjoy the spring. And all the blossoms--cherry included.
Image from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/5898662/Traditional-English-cherries-in-danger-of-wipe-out.html