An Analysis of “Loveliest of Trees,” by A.E.Housman

A.E. Housman uses the cherry blossom tree in his poem “Loveliest of Trees” as a symbol of the temporary nature of youth and beauty. This tree has a short blooming period in which its beautiful flowers present themselves in pink bundles. This is akin to the youth of a person in its brief and irretrievable nature . As Housman points out, “Twenty will not come again”(Housman, 1896). The cherry blossom tree is described as being decorated with “bloom” that hangs along its “bough,” implying a sense of intentionality in their appearance. A “bloom” is a flower that is cultivated. This word choice further implies that there is a deliberate reason behind the existence of the cherry tree. The cherry blossom tree is described to be “[standing] about the woodland ride”(Housman, 1896) . This personifies the tree and implies that the tree was not simply planted in a location against its will. Rather, it chooses to stand there. Housman creates visual imagery in mentioning the trees are standing “about the woodland ride,” almost as if they were divine beings standing guard over that path. This idea of divinity is further emphasized in the trees being clothed in “white for Eastertide.” In mentioning the trees are “wearing” white, Housman also personifies these trees to give them agency. In the Christian calendar, Easter time is represented with white: the color for purity and resurrection. It is also worth mentioning that the season that cherry blossoms bloom – Spring- is the same season that Easter falls on. The poet alludes to the Bible, which states that the average lifespan of a human in seventy years. By mentioning that the twenty years that passed will not come again, Housman structures his language in a manner that emphasizes the loss of those twenty years. Housman also gives time a physical quantity by mentioning that “fifty springs are little room”(Housman, 1896) . 

A.E. Housman rhymes every two lines of his poem “Loveliest of Trees,” making this poem a couplet. This gives the poem a neat rhyme scheme that follows an orderly pattern. Each set of rhymes has its own sound that is not repeated again. For instance, lines one and two rhyme with “now” and “bough”, a sound that is not used again to end a line. This is parallel to the idea, discussed by Housman, that time will not repeat itself again. Each pair of rhymes has a beauty that can only be enjoyed once. The next pair presents its own beauty that will not resemble the one that passed, much like the stages in life. The neat and orderly sound this rhyme scheme provides is parallel to the nature of time, which can be quantified into “scores”(Housman, 1896). The poem does not keep a consistent meter, but overall it resembles an iambic tetrameter. This means that each line has eight syllables, or four pairs of syllables. The first line of each stanza breaks this rule by having nine syllables rather than eight. By doing this, Housman intentionally breaks the meter to signify how the subject’s ride through the woods was a break from his normal course of life. 

In his poem “Loveliest of Trees,” A.E. Housman teaches that one will not have enough time to enjoy life if he/she chooses to only enjoy it at appropriate times. This is signified in the fact that “fifty springs are little room”  to enjoy the cherry blossom trees (Housman, 1896). Hence, the subject of the poem decides to go visit the tree during the unconventional season of winter when the tree is “hung with snow” (Housman, 1896). Housman teaches that one must enjoy life by putting emphasis on the fact that time will not repeat itself. He explicitly states it in the second line of the second stanza “time will not come again” (Housman, 1896). He reinforces this idea in his rhyme scheme, where no pair of rhymes is repeated. Hence both the rhyme and the age of 20 can only be enjoyed once. The cherry blossom tree can also be a metaphor for a person. One cannot only be present in his/her friend’s life when all is going well for the friend. Whether the friend is in a phase of “bloom” or “snow”, one must be present in the friend’s life. Housman points out that one does not know how much time s/he has to spend with her/his friends. Housman emphasizes in the first line that the cherry tree is now hung with its bloom, hence one can only admire its bloom in the present. Yet, the tree remains the loveliest of trees even during its dormant seasons. The tree does not lose its loveliness when it is not blossomed. In a similar way, people do not become inherently bad simply because they do bad things. Housman’s allusions to Christianity, in mentioning the biblical lifespan of a human- seventy years- and the reference to “wearing white for Eastertide” implies that he is teaching the Christian philosophy through this poem. The idea that corruption, or sin, does not make one inherently bad is one of the main Christian philosophies. The tree goes through a cycle of restoration, just as people do, in the Christian faith, though confession. 

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An Analysis of “The Widow’s Lament in Springtime,” by William Carlos Williams

In his poem “The Widow’s Lament in Springtime,” William Carlos Williams uses visual imagery, by inverting the connotation of the color white -from being passive and pure to representing death- to portray the delicate side of mourning. The white plum trees and flaming new grass are among the first clues that Williams presents that identify the season in which the poem takes place: spring. Williams juxtaposes the external environment of the subject of the poem with the internal feelings of the subject by placing the mourner in spring time- a period traditionally associated with rebirth and joy.  Williams uses tactile imagery in describing the grass as cold and fiery. The cold being fiery is contrary to what the sense of touch typically registers. By using this contrast, Williams projected the internal coldness that the widow felt onto the external surroundings. The intensity of the cold was so great that it burned, much like hypothermia.  Williams uses kinesthetic imagery when speaking of the widow sinking into the march. The act of sinking is associated with passivity. The use of this form of imagery concludes the poem with the passive helplessness that the widow feels as she sinks into her own despair. 

In his poem “The Widow’s Lament in Springtime,” William Carlos Williams presents, what he believed was the perspective of a lamenting widow.  The widow in the poem found no happiness in the cherry blossom trees that “were [her] joy/ formerly,” (Williams, 17-18). She had a living son who was seemingly not as depressed as she is, as he was capable of leaving his house to go to the meadows. This implies how Williams believed a woman should react to losing her husband and how that differs from a son reacting to losing his father. Despite still having her son, the widow seems to have lost all sources of joy in life and wanted to pursue a passive death via sinking into the marsh. This portrays how Williams believes a woman should and would react to the death of her husband.

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An Analysis of “Spring,” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Before having read “Spring” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, I assumed the poem would be based around a pleasing description of the season of spring. In his poem, Hopkins glorifies every aspect of spring as a fragment of Eden from the weeds to the “glassy pear-tree leaves” (Hopkins, 6). Spring could be a poem focused around the religious argument about the beauty of God being reflected in that of his creation: nature. It may also be interpreted as a poem about the purity of creation before it was soured with sin.

Through his poem “Spring,” Gerard Manley Hopkins teaches one to appreciate the minute miracles present in the natural world. He portrays even a common weed as a beautiful characteristic of the springtime by categorizing them in the same subset that, the more favorable, “pear tree leaves and blooms” belong to(Hopkins, 6). Hopkins portrays nature as an object of purity and mankind as beings capable of both purity and of corruption through “sour[ing] with sin”(Hopkins, 12). This provides as a warning for people to turn away from corruption and observe a lifestyle of innocence like nature. 

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An Analysis of “Parting at Morning,” by Robert Browning

Robert Browning’s “Parting at Morning” is an implied continuation of his  poem “Meeting at Night”. A reader can interpret that the poet is providing the alternate perspective of the romantic relationship at hand. Browning implies that the rising of the sun signifies that it is time for the pair to part from the bliss they find in each other, in order to return to the real world. This is reflected in the image of the speaker’s companion being carried off by a path of sunlight, as the speaker comes to terms with his/her own worldly duties. 

Robert Browning set his poem, “Parting in Morning,” around the real event of two lovers parting when the morning arrives in order to return to their worldly tasks. This idea is portrayed using metaphysical elements. The speaker refers to time as “the sea,” that tuned “round the cape”(Browning, 1845). This makes it appear as though time ambushed  the couple to cut their meeting short. The sun is described as “[looking] over the mountain’s rim,” as it made a “straight path” for the speaker’s company to leave through (Browning, 1845). The sun is symbolic of the worldly duties interrupting the couple’s bliss. 

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An Analysis of “Meeting at Night,” by Robert Browning

In his poem “Meeting at Night,” Robert Browning uses personification to exaggerate the romantic mood of his poem. By mentioning the “startled little waves” and their “fiery ringlets,” he projects the speaker’s excitement about his situation onto the setting of the poem (Browning, 1845). The “grey sea” and the “long black sand” that stand in the subject’s way are assigned bleaker colors, as opposed by the “yellow…moon” that provide the subject with light (Browning, 1845). This color gradient also increases in heat as the speaker reaches his/her beloved, the grey sea being chilly and the blue region of a flame being its hottest part.

By describing the taps on the window panes as a “sharp scratch,” Browning is incorporating auditory imagery and alliteration to create a sense of haste (Browning, 1845). Alliteration is further used when mentioning the two voices that spoke “less loud” to emphasize the pair’s failed attempt to conceal their animation, or when speaking of the subject who would “push and prow,” rather than simply hard work,  to emphasize the effort he puts into meeting his companion (Browning, 1845). The beach is “Sea-scented,” a detail that further romanticizes the environment and creates the auditory image of the sound of the spraying seawater with the repetition of the letter “s”(Browning, 1845). The poet uses onomatopoeia in describing the sand as “slushy”- a feature that further emphasizes the resisting nature of the environment surrounding the subject- and mentions the blue “spurt” of the match to imply the subject struck it with haste (Browning, 1845).

The poem’s conclusion with the two hearts that beat each to each is a hyperbole that exaggerates the nature of the love between the subject and their partner (Browning, 1845). Browning uses anaphora in starting two consecutive lines with the word “And” in both the first and second stanza to expresses the adrenaline rush the subject is feeling that allows him to absorb the minute details of the world around him (Browning, 1845). The poem follows an ABCCBA rhyme scheme. Its symmetrical pattern is yet another beautiful feature that highlights the romantic mood the poet sets. The poem’s animated nature is further emphasized by the poet’s use of an exclamation mark in the conclusion of the poem.

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An Analysis of “Spring in the Classroom” by Mary Oliver

In her poem “Spring in the Classroom,” Mary Oliver utilizes a variety of imagery to juxtapose nature with the dry academic environment. The mention of “pulsing initials” being carved into the desks is an example of organic imagery. The idea of one’s initials going through the pains of being carved exaggerates the pain of wasting away in a classroom in which the students feel they have been carved into. This kinesthetic image of the classroom, being presented as the final destination for “pulsing” beings, is further supported by Oliver’s description of the aging teacher. Oliver allows one to place themselves in the position of an elderly woman who has been wasting away while sitting on a chair for so long that her legs swell up- perhaps because her “pulsing” has slowed down. The idea of being suffocated by the oppressive atmosphere of the academic environment is further emphasized using olfactory imagery when Oliver speaks of the “chalky air” the students are forced to breath. 

The poem speaks of the mundane nature of the academic environment that robs children of their patience. Over the course of the poem, the tone of the narrator- a former child- changes from longing “to catch glimpses…of the greening…” to restlessness as the children “carve their pulsing initials  into the desks” to downright vengefulness as they “[plotted] mutiny” against their teacher, who they perceived to be their insentient oppressor. Mary Oliver used exaggeration to emphasize the detrimental effects of captivity on the mind of an individual. The restrictive academic environment had similar corrosive effects on the well-being of the teacher. This is emphasized by the juxtaposition of her having “stony” eyes while she is inside the classroom and “blooming…in the art teacher’s arms” once the limitations of the school day cease to apply to her.  

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An Analysis of Accounting by Natasha Trethewey

Through her poem “Accounting,” Natasha Trethewey  teaches one to appreciate the mundane tasks that one has the opportunity to do with their loved one. The act of accounting was glorified in the poem using the actions of the female companion of the poet. The poet described her simple actions of “crowding the card table with coin banks…” with carefully analysed detail, making the reader consider it to as a significant action. 

The poem also teaches one that the way one perceives a situation can affect the reality of that situation. One can see accounting as a tedious, time consuming  necessity or as a tranquil pastime on a hot summer night.  The poet describes the minute elements of spending time with someone during the  process of accounting to portray it as a proper activity to be doing on a “[night] too warm for TV”.

The concluding line states that the “foundation” of their house is “packed solid” with jars of coins collected during their accounting sessions. This implies that the time the two spend accounting is intimate to them as it acts as a foundation for their relationship. This may also subliminally imply that the foundation of a home is on money.

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An Analysis of 35/10 by Sharon Olds

The reader may interpret, 35/10 by Sharon Olds, as a poem about a mother longingly admiring the youthfulness of her daughter’s body. The mother does not long to possess such a body once more, rather to share the experience of creating life alongside her daughter. She realizes that as her daughter comes of age to procreate, her own ability to do so will deteriorate. 

Olds portrays the fear of the disposability of human beings. As a newer, younger and fresher generation of people “[open] like a… flower” the potential and possibilities that the old once possessed “[falls] through [their] body”. The daughter will one day assume the role of “mother” to her own child. Consequently, nature would no longer require the mother to play the role of “mother”. 

The primes  poem is based on the poet’s fantasy as Sharon Olds’ only child was her son. The ideas discussed were based on the reality that as her child comes of age, her own time is running out. The title of the poem- being 35/10- implies that the poet is a 35 year old mother tending for her 10 year old daughter. If the poet were presenting her 35 year old self in the poem, the details of her aging described- such as being “silver haired”, “pit skinned” and facing her “last chances to bear a child”- are heavily exaggerated. 

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An Analysis of “Ethics” by Linda Pastan

In her poem “Ethics,” Linda Pastan used tactile and visual imagery. The poem begins by setting the scene in a classroom in which restless children are sitting on hard chairs as their ethics teacher asks them questions. Both restlessness and hard chairs are elements of childhood that can help one place themselves in the position of the poet as a child. The hard chairs is a specific example of tactile imagery that the poet uses. 

The poet used visual imagery in saying that the old woman borrowed her grandmother’s face. This gives the abstract idea of an old woman a concrete identity. The reader is invited to place their own grandmother in the place of the old woman. This form of imagery allows a reader to view the situation from the perspective of the child once again. 

The poet then places herself in the place of the old woman in the burning building, inviting the reader to do the same, to provide the reader with an alternate perspective. This is done to contradict the idea presented in the beginning of the poem- where the life of a Rembrandt is more valuable as it might ultimately outlast the old lady- by comparing the value of the reader’s life with that of the Rembrandt. 

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An Analysis of “Mirror” by Sylvia Plath

Before reading the poem, I assumed that the poem “Mirror,” by Sylvia Plath, discussed matters related to reflection- whether it be in the literal sense or as introspection. The title gives an indication as to who the speaker is in the poem. One can understand why this poem, which teaches about the value of an unbiased perspective that seeks the whole truth, is centered around the perspective of an object that plainly reflects all that it is presented with. Having read the poem, I realized that the poem speaks more about perceiving matters in an unfiltered manner than about reflection on what one perceives. 

The poem, “Mirror” by Silvia Plath, teaches one to absorb the details that surround him or her in its raw and unfiltered form. Like a mirror, one must reject “love [and] dislike”, to have the ability to see without bias. The second stanza of the poem teaches that one must not settle on artificial alternatives to the truth. The moon and candles cannot provide their own light just as a lie cannot provide satisfaction. Both stanzas warn against allowing an external or internal factor to take over one’s existence. The mirror and the woman, being focused on the pink wall and sadness respectively,  lost themselves to the object of their focus.  

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