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Monday, April 3, 2017

Memento Mori

The title is a Latin reminder that we all die. Recently in an English Literature class, the professor presented a well-known A.E. Houseman poem as a Memento Mori poem. I memorized the poem when I was young, and here it from memory:

Loveliest of trees the cherry now
Is hung with blooms along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now of my three-score years and ten
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy Springs a score
Only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty Springs are little room,
So about the woodland I will go
To see the cherries hung with snow.

Being reminded of this poem just a month after my seventieth birthday added to my upset at turning this age. I've often said that turning another decade in age didn't bother me, possibly because I started thinking of myself as the age of my next birthday long before the actual date. If that was the trick, it didn't work this time. I've heard so many references to "our Biblical three-score years and ten" in my life that following my birthday I actually checked that the phrase really is in the Bible. Yes, it is but in context it's clearly not there as a limit or even an average in human years. I'm not religious, but sometimes religious-related beliefs stay with me in an almost superstitious fashion.

Today while walking I thought about the poem and had another thought which should have been obvious to me previously but wasn't. Very few of us, probably including the young narrator of the Houseman poem, knows when we're going to die, so we may as well just concentrate on enjoying whatever time we have on earth. Carpe diem, seize the day whether this is our last Spring or not. I think I've generally lived like that, but lately I've tended to forget.

So while I walk through the woodlands, I'm enjoying the bloom on the cherry trees in the park. The other day I stopped and photographed one:

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