Loveliest of trees

A Shropshire Lad

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now C Q
V Is hung with bloom along the bough,
V And stands about the woodland ride Q
V Wearing white for Eastertide. C Q
V Now, of my threescore years and ten, 5 C Q
V Twenty will not come again, Q
V And take from seventy springs a score, Q
V It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room, 10
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow. C Q
Key: V: Textual Variation. C: Commentary. Q: Question. Glossary


ASL II “Loveliest of trees”

Top ▲ Glossary

Line Word Glossary
2 Bough The main branch of a tree
3 Ride A path broad enough to ride a horse along, usually through a wood
4 Eastertide The religious season of Easter
5 Threescore Sixty (a score being twenty)


Top ▲ Commentary

Line Commentary
Date: May-July 1895
1 A cherry tree that was
famous locally grew in the garden of
Perry Hall (the Housman family home
where AEH lived until his mother’s death when he was 12, at which time the
family moved to the Clock House in the nearby village of Fockbury).
4 In the Church of
England, White is the Liturgical Colourfor
the festal periods including that from Easter Day to the Eve of Pentecost as
well as specific festivals in the church as well as specific services
including Marriages Baptism, Confirmation and Ordination, It may be used in
preference to purple or black for Funerals, and should be used at the Funeral
of a child.
5 “Threescore and ten” is a biblical reference to
the life-span that a human being might expect to enjoy:”The days of our years are threescore years and ten;and if by reason of strength
they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour
and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”Psalm 90, v.10
12 Both Cherry blossom and snow only last a short
time in the English climate; as such both might be seen as symbols of the
brief life-span of man which pre-occupies the speaker in this and many other
poems in the collection.
Meter Four line stanzas of mostly eight syllable iambic
lines, rhymed as couplets. However, the inverted rhythm of the first word, Love-li-est,
offers a hesitation or contemplation as the poem begins.


Top ▲ Variations

Line Text Textual variation
2 along the bough] under the bough,
3 about the woodland ride]

i) along the woodlands wide
ii) along the woodlands side

4 white] snow
5 d1/d3 Now, of my] And since, of
5-6 d2 And since my days, the days of men, | Are but
threescore years and ten,
7-8 d3 i) And yet of all the springs in store
ii) And so of all the springs in store | I shall see but fifty more


Top ▲ Questions

Line Question
1 What is it about the cherry tree in particular
that makes it “Loveliest” in the opinion of the speaker of the poem?
3 Why is it important that the tree stands “about
the woodland ride“, rather than
just in woodland?
4 White is the liturgical colour
for Easter and would be worn by the clergy in services. With what else is the colour
5 -6 Consider the earlier draft form of the second
stanza and the beginning of the third:And since my days, the days of men,
Are but threescore years and ten,

And so of all the springs in store
I shall see but fifty more

And since to look at things you love
Fifty times is not enough…

In what ways do you think the final version is
better than this earlier version?

6 The voice of the poem, aged twenty, is concerned
that he may only have another fifty years of life. What does this suggest to
you about the character of the persona that Housman has created?
7 Why do you think Housman uses the particular word
“springs” to refer to years?
12 While it is not unknown for there to be snow at
Easter in England,
it would certainly be unusual. If we are to understand the “snow” of the
final line to refer to the cherry blossom, why do you think Housman has
chosen this particular metaphor to describe it?