Thursday, 13 May 2010

"Loveliest of trees, the cherry now...."

I was about to add this to my blog two weeks ago. All I had to do was to type out the A.E. Houseman poem. I then heard news that a friend from the past had died and I suddenly lost the heart to post. E.L. was a naturalist, a gardener, a kind and caring man who was highly thought of by the many people who knew him. He died in the Forest, as he wished, "Under the greenwood tree".

Now, the cherry blossom lies scattered, dry and brown on the grass. I have decided to post the poem after all. Learning of a death in the spring makes Houseman`s words all the more poignant. Rest in peace E.L.

It is almost the end of the road for the old white cherry tree by the pond. It was planted many years ago, at the end of the garden of the old white farmhouse. Now, it grows on our side of the fence, in the shade of a great lime tree. After the war, the land from the old village farm was split up into parcels and sold and the cherry tree is now on the edge of our vegetable garden and the fields.

There is a tradition that New Forest farms have at least one cherry tree. Sometimes a wild, Gean cherry and sometimes a cultivated variety. Our old tree has a mass of white double blossoms. Nowadays, the fruit grow too high for harvesting so the cherries are left for the birds.
This year, the blossom has been so beautiful. As you walk down the hill through the gorse, our cherry`s floating white flowers seem to splash out from the changing greens of the other trees around it. Standing under the tall old tree, even when the sky is grey as it was this morning, there is a subtle, monochrome loveliness of white blossom against grey cloud.

Cherry blossom against the green of a neighbouring lime tree.

The cracked old trunk where a main branch threatens to split away.

The trunk of the old tree is gradually decaying. A local tree surgeon told us that it may live a few more years yet. Up in the crumbling crevices of the trunk, insects feed and snails shelter.

"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.

by A.E.Houseman (from his collection "A Shropshire Lad")


Kath said...

So sorry to hear your friend has died, but I am glad for him that he had the peaceful passing in the place he loved most.
It is good news that the wonderful old tree has a few more years left for you to enjoy. I heard on the news today that a 40 year old Spindle tree in Abingdon was cut down, just because it is covered in caterpillers once a year!

Morning's Minion said...

Such a nice post--"pensive" is the thought that comes to mind.
I think that your cherry tree may be even older than the pear tree on our little farm. We've been told the pear may be more than a centruy old. It too has a split and hollowed trunk.

ChrisJ said...

I remember trying to get my 11th grade literature class to understand what all this poem was about. They had such a hard time with it. It's sad to think how many wonderful poems just go right over the kids' heads these days.