The First of May
by A. E. Housman 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's 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. From Last Poems by A. E. Housman.
It is as well to acknowledge the other side of the coin. Not everyone accepts the Christian or any other religious view of life. Housman was an atheist, and here seems close to despair: the sumless tale of sorrow is all unrolled in vain. Sorrow is beyond calculation: May fair at Ludlow repeats May fair at Ludlow, repeats May fair at Ludlow; and the sons of men learn sense only when it is too late. The poet was writing in the years after the Great War, and like many of his lyrics The First of May alludes to the futility of war and the price of war in human suffering.
No skating over these questions of human sinfulness and apparent divine indifference!