The poetry of A. E. Housman has been regarded as being too pessimistic. That alignment is reinforced by the fact that the glorious past or the short period of youth in his poems is almost always accompanied by imminent and gloomy death. When his poetry is approached with the usual perspective of cause and effect, his general notoriety is accurate. But there has been prejudice against Housman’s poetry.
In his poems, Housman makes it clear that any obsessions with the bygone past and with the yet-to-come future as well are the direct consequence of neglecting of the present. As for Housman, the present is the warehouse to accumulate the past and also to unravel the future. In this perspective, it is natural that death itself becomes ‘the-already-known future.’ Any immersion in the future death including any obsession with the bygone past means the death of the present itself. In other words, every moment of the present in Housman’s poetry has an existential meaning.
“The Loveliest of Trees, The Cherry Now” shows us a speaker who now wants to go to the woodland where things “in bloom” of the past and “hung with snow” of the future conglomerates in the field of the present. This association results from the complete endorsement of the bygone death of the past and also the imminent death of the future and results in the positive activity of the present. This existential meaning allows Housman’s poetry to surpass the limitations of “carpe diem” poetry and his pessimistic notoriety.
The time sequence in Housman’s poetry is not ‘linear’ but ‘circular.’ In the circular sequence where the past, the present, and the future coexists, Housman spreads out the whole lives of humankind not because of a fear of death but because of an examination of the precious present. In Housman’s poetry time is always the present.