A.E. Housman/Loveliest of Trees

Essay by klausloverUniversity, Master'sA+, October 2004

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In his poem, 'The Loveliest of Trees', A. E. Housman takes us through a sort of progression, if you will, from youth to age in three brief stanzas. I appreciated this poem for its simplicity and symbolism, as well as the underlying meaning hidden between the lines.

The first symbols I encountered in this poem were the colors. The cherry tree is blooming lovely in the spring, 'Wearing white for Eastertide'. Its fruit is at the peak of ripeness, rich and red, the color of blood, fire and passion. I feel this color could easily symbolize the life flowing inside the author, the fire stirred up in the mind of the poet who is, at the tender age of twenty, already lamenting over the lost years of his life.

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

Red is the color of passion that the author has in his quest to see all things in bloom, actual and figurative, and his deep desire to spend the remainder of his years soaking up all the beauty he can in this world before his life is done.

It is a view I can appreciate, but one has to wonder where such a young man acquired this higher plane of thinking with such limited life experience.

White, however, is the color of purity and innocence. This could represent youth, which is 'hung with bloom along the bough' in the spring of life, then changes at the end of the poem to another symbol, as the author says 'About the woodlands I will go, to see

the cherry hung with snow', still the same colors, although in a different form of its life stage. The cherry...