XXXIV. The First of May

The orchards half the way
   From home to Ludlow fair
Flowered on the first of May
   In Mays when I was there;
And seen from stile or turning
   The plume of smoke would show
Where fires were burning
   That went out long ago.

The plum broke forth in green,
   The pear stood high and snowed,
My friends and I between
   Would take the Ludlow road;
Dressed to the nines and drinking
   And light in heart and limb,
And each chap thinking
   The fair was held for him.

Between the trees in flower
   New friends at fairtime tread
The way where Ludlow tower
   Stands planted on the dead.
Our thoughts, a long while after,
   They think, our words they say;
Theirs now the laughter,
   The fair, the first of May.

Ay, yonder lads are yet
   The fools that we were then;
For oh, the sons we get
   Are still the sons of men.
The sumless tale of sorrow
   Is all unrolled in vain:
May comes to-morrow
   And Ludlow fair again.

A.E. Housman, Last Poems

Public domain: first published in 1922.

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