Why Lockdown isn’t the opportunity it seemed to be and a poem from A. E. Houseman

Like many other people, I’m entering my fourth week of Lockdown. I get to go out for a walk once a day for an hour or so I’m not a total shut-in, yet, what felt like a holiday in week one has now curdled into house arrest, with my immediate neighbourhood as my exercise yard.

I know that my situation is a privileged one. I have no financial worries, I have enough food. I’m not working. I’m an introvert. I like my own company. I like spending time with my wife. I love to read and to write. I have a nice garden to sit in when the sun shines. So I have nothing to complain about.

Except that, all across the country people are dying who needn’t have died, that the people trying to save them are risking their lives because they haven’t been given the right protection, that my government is more concerned with image management than with practical action, that this virus has sliced like a knife through the belly of our world and we’ll never be able to put everything back together and that there is nothing I can do about any of it.

The lockdown that has gifted me time has also stolen my peace fo mind. I’m not looking out across a landscape of Lockdown opportunities to indulge my creativity by reading and writing every day to the end of June. I’m too distracted by listening to the clock ticking in my ear, counting down the world I knew and ushering in the brutal birth of a new reality buffetted by pandemics, climate collapse, the deconstruction of democracy, the concentration of power and the scramble by the megarich to build enclaves that they can survive in while the res of us beg for scraps.

It’s Easter Monday today, An April Easter rather than a March one, so it’s sunny, the sky is clear and all around me, plants are bursting into bloom as if they were applauding the day. I thought I might reclaim my peace of mind by concentrating on welcoming spring and the renewal it brings, so I went in search of Easter poems and found one by A. E Housman.

I smiled when I read that the twenty-year-old Houseman was driven by having only fifty springs left to him (in fact he lived to be seventy-seven). I’m decades ahead of him so my need is more urgent. I don’t have time to wait for the geopolitical structure of the world to realign itself. I need to look for beauty and peace where I can find it each day.

Today, I offer you this poem and the hope that your Easter has been blessed with blossoms.

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

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since  to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

6 thoughts on “Why Lockdown isn’t the opportunity it seemed to be and a poem from A. E. Houseman

  1. Mike, yes…please do yourself a huge favour and look for the beauty in each day. Finding the beauty in even the smallest of everyday things can bring peace. If I may, I would direct you to another Houseman poem, No. XL, from A Shropshire Lad. I’m sure you’re familiar with it.

    Into my heart an air that kills,
    From yon far country blows:
    What are those blue remembered hill,
    What spires, what farms are those?
    That is the land of lost content,
    I see it shining plain,
    The happy highways where I went
    And cannot come again.

    This is one of the very few poems that I’ve been able to memorize (probably because it is so short, but also because it reminds me to appreciate what I have now, and what I had when I had it). I would give anything I have now, to be locked down in the tiniest hovel, with the barest of essentials, if I could be in that state, with the one person who was able to always make the most of whatever the moments offered, the one person who made everything okay, no matter what the circumstances. My husband died four years and eight months ago (Aug. 17, 2015) and now, in the Stay Home Stay Safe world, even though I’m working from home and have stuff to keep me busy, it’s just me and my dog, who is good company and my best buddy, but not much of a conversationalist, and he doesn’t play cribbage, or laugh at the movies that Joe and I used to watch together. If I could change anything about this pandemic, save not having it happen at all, it would be that if I have to be alone in the house and in our woods, I would rather be alone in those places with Joe. But I can’t have that wish, so I’ll just remember the laughs, the quiet times, the hugs, and all those happy highways where we went together.

    Be well, stay safe, and hug your wife…a lot 😀


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Rose. That is a great poem about how irretrievable the past is. I’m sorry your husband is not with you and that you have to face all this alone. If my wife were not with me, I would be struggling with staying home.

      Take care and stay well


  2. I too am an introvert. I feel lucky because I am an essential worker, who works from home, and dislikes crowded places. ‘this is truly my time to thrive. But I see all of the doom and gloom on the internet and it sends my anxiety into overdrive. Now that it is more important than ever to be out side and find that beauty in nature, we are quarantined.

    Liked by 1 person

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