Poem introduction

Fame, as a poet, came very slowly to A. E. (Alfred Edward) Housman – his reputation rests on just the two books of short lyrics published in his lifetime, A Shropshire Lad (1896) and Last Poems (1922) and a third, More Poems, published after his death. Housman's melancholy evocation of nature, sorrow and the brevity of life, and celebration of young manhood – although his lads almost always come to a sad end – appealed eventually to a public mood part patriotic and part nostalgic, during the First World War, and he became famous. Readers liked the skill and simplicity with which he fashioned these brief pieces. Composers, like George Butterworth and Vaughan Williams, enhanced their appeal with wonderful settings of several. It became clear much later that they derived largely from an experience of loneliness in homosexual love. This is the second poem in A Shropshire Lad.

A Shropshire Lad II: Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

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.

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A. E. Housman

A E Housman Downloads read by Kit Wright

1Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries