Rachel WilsonJ. KingEnglish 1029 February 2015When I Was One-and-TwentyThe poem “When I was One-and-Twenty” written by A.E. Housman, is a simple yet elegant sonnet published in 1896. In this poem Housman writes about a young man and his transformation from the age of twenty one to the age of twenty two. Throughout the poem the speaker is given advice from an older, wiser man.
When the speaker receives the first piece of advice at the age of twenty-one he, being of typical youth, chooses not take note of the advice he is given. It is only a year later, at the age of twenty two, that the speaker comes in contact with the older gentleman again and receives yet another piece of advice from him. It is then that the speaker realizes that the older man might just know what he is talking about.
.The poem, which is written in typical lyric theme, consists of two rhymed stanzas; each stanza a ballad of its own. The first stanza has a rhyme scheme of ABCBCDAD etc. while stanza twos rhyme scheme is of ABCBADAD scheme giving it a musical ballad.
While both stanzas are alike in the message Housman is trying to convey, it is in this stanza that the speaker comes off a little arrogant. This stanza also seems to concentrate more on the old man’s advice and the speaker’s inability to understand the advice. The old man’s advice in this stanza is to “Give crowns and pounds and guineas but not your heart away” (Housman 3). Here the old man is telling the speaker that it is advisable to give monetary things to the one you love instead of your heart. The old man’s belief is that money can undoubtedly be replenished, but if you give your heart away and it gets broken the pain is immeasurable.
Housman uses this line to attempt the reader to get a The fifth line of this stanza reads “Give pearls away and rubies.” (Housman 5) According to the advice the old man is giving pearls and rubies are also acceptable gifts to give away as long as they are not from the heart. The speaker goes on to say “I was One-and-Twenty” (Housman 7)/” No use to talk to me.” (Housman 8) Here the speaker practically deems the old man’s advice useless for a twenty-one year old. I see the advice in this stanza as more of a forewarning from the old man, with the assumption being that the old man has already experienced the heartache of giving his heart. The second stanza also begins with “When I Was One-and-Twenty” (Housman 9).
Giving us the impression that this stanza will be an extension of the first. The speaker conveys to us that the old man warned him again by saying “I heard him say again” (Housman 10). Here the same man is telling the speaker again to not give his heart away.
The old man’s advice in this stanza is “The heart out of the bossom”, “ We never given in vein”, “ ‘Tis paid with sighs of plenty”, “And sold for endless rue” (Housman 11-14). Here the old man is saying that giving your heart away causes agony, certain repercussions, and often takes one’s independence; therefor leaving the person in “endless rue.” Although most people consider the repercussions of giving their heart away to be worth it, it is obvious that the old man deems otherwise. It isn’t until the end of this stanza when the speaker, who has matured by only a year, has a revelation and realizes that the old man’s advice was indeed rational. .