When I Was One-and-Twenty Analysis

Topics: Wise old man, American film actors, American television actors Pages: 2 (681 words) Published: April 17, 2012
When I Was One-And-Twenty, by A. E. Housman

When I was one-and-twenty
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.’
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me.

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard him say again,
‘The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
’Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.’
And I am two-and-twenty,
And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true.

In the poem When I Was One-And-Twenty, by A. E. Housman, the author begins by creating the setting around when he was twenty-one and how he had heard something from an older and wiser man. The wise man tells the author, “Give crowns and pounds and guineas, but not your heart away” (3-4). The meaning of the man’s words is that you can give away your money, but never give away your heart at such an early age. In the second stanza, he says increases the amount, saying to give pearls and rubies away, but to keep your fancy free. The next lines of the stanza says, “But I was one-and-twenty, no use to talk to me” (7-8). It is clear through these two lines alone that he is now speaking from a later period of his life, and that he never took the old man advice. The first four lines of the last stanza are quoting the old wise man for a third time. For a third time, he is being reminded not to give his heart away, and that it should never be given in vain. It then states that he would lose his heart by paying with “sighs a plenty, and sold for endless rue” (13-14). The third stanza seems to be a more elaborate warning, stating that giving away your heart will cost a lot more than any money he could ever accumulate. It also warns that if he gives away his heart on a whim, he will most likely be regretting it in the end. The last two lines say, “And I am two-and-twenty, and oh, ‘tis true, ‘tis true” (15-16). This is the author speaking now from when he was twenty-two and has...

Cited: Housman, A. E. "When I Was One-And-Twenty." Literature: The Human Experience. By Richard Abcarian, Marvin Klotz, and Samuel Cohen. Ed. Denise B. Wydra and Karen S. Henry. 10th ed. Boston, New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2010. 148. Print.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "When I was One-and-Twenty Analysis" Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 9 Apr. 2012.
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