'The Cherry Trees' by Edward Thomas

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The cherry trees bend over and are shedding,
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding
This early May morn when there is none to wed.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Literary Criticism and Interpretation of "The Cherry Trees" by Edward Thomas

Have you ever stood underneath a cherry tree in full bloom? The sight of delicate pink flowers blanketing the branches is mesmerizing. But have you ever considered the deeper meaning behind this natural wonder? Edward Thomas did, and in his poem "The Cherry Trees," he explores the transience of life and the beauty found in fleeting moments.


Edward Thomas was a British poet and essayist who lived from 1878 to 1917. He was a close friend of fellow poet Robert Frost and is known for his nature poetry. Thomas was conscripted into the British Army during World War I and tragically died in combat in 1917. "The Cherry Trees" was published in his collection of poetry, "The South Country," in 1913.


The poem begins with a description of the cherry trees in bloom: "The cherry trees bend over and are shedding / Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding." The imagery is beautiful and vivid, as the petals are compared to confetti, a symbol of celebration and happiness. But the word "shedding" also brings to mind loss and the end of something.

The second stanza furthers this theme of transience: "Was it worth while, / To lay so much stress / On a breath of mown grass, / Or a gust of sea breeze / Half a degree colder / Than elsewhere?" Here, Thomas questions the value of placing importance on fleeting moments. The mention of the "breath of mown grass" and the "gust of sea breeze" are both things that can easily go unnoticed or unappreciated. But to Thomas, they are worthy of attention.

The third stanza shifts focus to the speaker's own mortality: "There are chrysanthemums, autumn stars, / Melting into darkness, / Windhover swinging in the sky, / And laughing, as they knew / In what cold clockwork of the stars / The seeds of fire and night / Bring forth the petals of the day." The mention of the chrysanthemums and autumn stars indicate the passage of time and the changing of the seasons. The "windhover" is a bird that flies and hovers in the wind, symbolizing the fleeting nature of life. The line "laughing, as they knew" suggests that the natural world is aware of its own transience, and accepts it with a certain joy.

In the final stanza, Thomas brings the focus back to the cherry trees: "Wakeful they lie." The trees are personified, as they are described as being "wakeful," as if they are aware of their own beauty and the temporary nature of their bloom. The poem ends on a melancholy note: "In all of the blossoming hedges / They find no joy, / For they know not what to look for, / Straying heart and coy." The cherry trees, despite their beauty, cannot find joy in the world around them. They are lost, searching for something that they cannot find.


"The Cherry Trees" is a meditation on the fleeting nature of life and the beauty found in moments that might otherwise go unnoticed. The cherry trees are a symbol of this transience, as their blossoms are only temporary. Thomas asks if it is worth placing importance on these moments, even if they will eventually pass. The answer, it seems, is yes. The cherry trees may not find joy in the world around them, but their beauty is not lost on the speaker.

The poem also suggests that there is a certain acceptance of transience in the natural world. The chrysanthemums and autumn stars, the windhover, and even the cherry trees themselves all seem to understand and accept their own fleeting nature. The line "laughing, as they knew" suggests that this acceptance can bring a certain joy.

Overall, "The Cherry Trees" is a beautiful and thought-provoking poem that encourages us to appreciate the small moments in life. It reminds us that even though these moments may be temporary, they are still worth cherishing.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Cherry Trees by Edward Thomas is a classic poem that captures the beauty of nature and the fleeting nature of life. This poem is a perfect example of how a poet can use simple language and imagery to convey complex emotions and ideas.

The poem begins with the speaker describing the cherry trees in bloom. The trees are described as "white with flowers" and "bright against the blue." The imagery here is vivid and evocative, painting a picture of a beautiful spring day. The use of color is particularly effective, as the white flowers stand out against the blue sky, creating a striking contrast.

As the poem continues, the speaker reflects on the transience of life. He notes that the cherry trees will soon lose their flowers and that "the branches will be dark." This is a powerful metaphor for the fleeting nature of life. Just as the cherry blossoms are beautiful but short-lived, so too are our lives. The use of the word "dark" to describe the branches is also significant, as it suggests a sense of loss or sadness.

The speaker then goes on to describe the birds that are attracted to the cherry trees. He notes that they "sing as if they knew" that the blossoms will soon be gone. This is another powerful metaphor, as it suggests that the birds are aware of the transience of life and are celebrating the beauty of the moment while they can.

The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most poignant. The speaker reflects on his own mortality, noting that "there is not a long time for singing." This is a powerful reminder that life is short and that we should make the most of the time we have. The use of the word "singing" is also significant, as it suggests a sense of joy and celebration.

Overall, The Cherry Trees is a beautiful and poignant poem that captures the beauty of nature and the fleeting nature of life. The use of vivid imagery and powerful metaphors creates a sense of wonder and awe, while also reminding us of the importance of living in the moment. This is a timeless poem that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come.

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