17 January 2012
Housman was born into a home in Worcestershire, England on March 26, 1859. Besides being the eldest of seven children, he grew up to be an excellent poet and “One of his country’s greatest Latinists” (Sullivan). Prior to becoming an atheist, Housman had to go through the loss of his mother on his twelfth birthday due to cancer. Years later he was awarded a scholarship to Oxford. During his college career, Housman realized he was gay and fell in love with a man named Moses Jackson whom was an influence in some of his poetry. Being known as “’the poet of unhappiness’” Housman died in his sleep on April 30, 1936 (Sullivan). A.E. Houseman sends a very important message in his poem “When I Was One-and-Twenty”. The narrators of the poem are a person of the age of twenty-one and an elderly man. Housman tells a story of a young man who comes across a wise man who told him advice that he didn’t take. It’s a story of how stubborn young people are and how you should always listen to the wise man because he is never wrong. In the beginning of the poem Housman tells the first lesson the wise man gave him. Houseman writes, I heard a wise man say,
“Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free”. (2-6)
From this passage one can interpret that the story that is being told is about love. Crowns, pounds, and guineas are another way of saying money, as well as pearls and rubies (Dictionary.com). What the wise man is saying is that oneself can give valuable things away, but don’t give away the most valuable thing, one’s heart. When the wise man says “Give pearls away and rubies/ But keep your fancy free” (5-6), he means give valuable things away but keep the high opinion of oneself for free. So in other words, show people no one else matters but oneself.
At the end of the first stanza, Housman writes, “But I was one-and-twenty, / No use...