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September 27, 2007 | 8 Comments

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Would you be able to tell me where I might find a copy of a poem you wrote a while back that contained these lines?

"It's rather sobering for a fellow
To see the maples turning yellow."

That's all I remember of the poem, and I'd like to use it in my classroom.

Shawna G.
Billings, MT

Your students won't appreciate it, Shawna, they're too young and they probably don't know A.E. Housman's "Loveliest of trees the cherry now is hung with bloom along the bough" which is all about the sense of time passing when one is twenty. ("Now of my three-score years and ten, twenty will not come again.") This is a poem I wrote when I turned sixty.

Loveliest of trees, the maple now
Is turning yellow on the bough.
It stands among the trees of green,
All dressed up for Halloween.
Now of my three score years and ten,
Sixty will not come again.
Subtract from seventy, three score.
It means I don't have many more.
And since to look at things sublime,
Ten years is not a lot of time.
It's rather sobering for a fellow
To see the maples turning yellow.


My students certainly would have known the poem! I can't guarantee that they responded to it the way we in middle age do - that might be a stretch. But my hope is that years later the poems I've implanted in their little pumpkin heads might reappear, giving them renewed insight and enjoyment. I've been pleased to hear from some of my former students, and they do sometimes remark on their love of poetry.
I really enjoyed your homage to Housman.

That is a REALLY nice poem!!! (my grammar may be bad!)
Do I understand correctly? GK wrote this??
Thanks for all the good listening and newsletters!!

I wonder how many poets have altered A.E. Housman's wonderful poem.

As you did, so did I ten years ago:

Loveliest of trees, the maple now
is hung with leaves along the bough,
and stands about the woodland ride
wearing red for Autumntide.

Now of my threescore years and ten,
sixty-five won't come again,
and take from seventy falls, five years,
not much is left for new frontiers.

And since to look at trees aflame,
five more falls are few to claim,
in the woodlands I'll aspire
to see the maple burn with fire.

Barbara Schutz

That is the loveliest of poems. My maple is now turning yellow and is the loveliest of all. I have now watched it 15 times past the time of your poem!

I find this poem whimsical and very touching. Having just turned 62, and looking forward to a visit to northern Ohio in mid-October to SEE the "lovliest of trees turning yellow on the bough", it's also relavent to me.

I've been an ardent listener of PHC & a devoted fan of GK for, well, we're into the decades now. What a national treasure he is!

How about the one that starts - "When ever you hear the doorbell ring?" I learned that when I was young, taking diction lessons. I learned how to speak very distinctly.

The poem went on to ask . . . why did the doorbell ring? Was it the postman? Or someone else bringing something to your door. Something special? A surprise? maybe . . .

Hmm, hope someone remembers this one.

My English students, coincidentally, this very week were reciting Housman's "Terence, this is stupid stuff" and reading other of his stupid stuff, "The loveliest of trees" among it. The celebration in class of a sixteenth birthday invited the lines "Now of my three score years and ten/ Sixteen will not come again." Before we could help it, a writing assignment was due on Monday. Here's my homework. I'm glad to find other versions here.

The alder in the woodpile's low.
I should have filled it weeks ago.
First frost today lies on the grass.
The equinox is some weeks past.
Now of my ten years and three score
I've spent already fifty-four.
Do the math; that leaves sixteen
To watch the frozen field turn green.
But sixteen winters dark and gray
Are not too tough a price to pay
For the priviledge again to view
Next spring hard frost become sweet dew.

Kudos to Ms. Barr for the defense of her students! As a teacher no more than a few years older than my teenage students, even I was often tempted to rail against their ignorance and tendency to be self-centered. Yes, they have a predilection towards bad, sentimental poetry and stories, and they often declared that they didn't care too much about things unconnected to their lives. But these are the same 17 year-olds who deciphered e.e. cummings and Robert Frost. Teachers provide much needed grace and forethought for a teenager’s education, and we can only hope that more educators follow Ms. Barr’s philosophy.

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