Sunday, March 23, 2008


Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Lovliest 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.

A. E. Housman, 1896

Here in Wisconsin, thanks to a snow storm on Friday, the cherry trees are hung with literal snow, and blossom season seems far away. It will not be long, however, before this latest batch of snow melts away and runs off into the streams. Then the skunk cabbage will sprout and the pussy willows will bud. Soon after, the marsh marigolds will appear in the spring beds, clumps of yellow in the wet ground. And I will walk in the maple woods, and spy the hepatica, blooming clear blue and purple at the base of the oldest trees. One day I will look up and see the pale yellow-green new leaves of the quaking aspen against a blue sky, and I will spot an oriole or a tanager. Then, suddenly, I will not have to look for these tiny signs of spring. They will be everywhere I look: the waves of delicate spring beauties, and trilliums, and bloodroot, and amenomes, laid out in a white carpet on the forest floor. And the yellows of the forsythia and the bellwort and even the dandelions will reflect the yellow slant of the sun. The purples and blues and pinks of violets and cranesbill and columbine and dame's rocket will show off the new green of the understory, and the woods will be filled with birdsong and the rustling of leaves in the breeze.

I know this will happen because I have seen it happen every year for 37 years. If I am indeed granted three-score year and ten, then I only have 33 more springs to bear witness to this miracle. And that does not seem near enough time to fill myself with that beauty.


lizardrinking said...

beautiful, and beautiful writing 'glo. There is a track I walk near to where my parents used to live. I've been walking it since I was 13, so I think I know it, but the seasons are so vast. One year a bushfire comes through, the next year the understorey has changed and there is such a profusion of flowers as I have never seen :) I don't get bored walking the same way as change is as cyclic as the seasons.

anglophile said...

I have my favorite paths, too, liz. I know where to look for which flowers. I like to see them sprout, and bloom, and go to seed, and whither away again until next spring.