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Can someone help me with the poetry analysis of "When I Was One-and-Twenty" in "A...

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lovelindz3 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 11, 2011 at 9:15 AM via web

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Can someone help me with the poetry analysis of "When I Was One-and-Twenty" in "A Shropshire Lad" by A. E. Houseman?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 11, 2011 at 8:22 PM (Answer #1)

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This section or fragment of the much longer "A Shropshire Lad" talks about the dangers of love and how you can get hurt by giving your heart away and then refers to the experience of the speaker in doing so. Note the words of the wise man in saying give money away, but never your heart. The importance of "keeping your fancy free," is however ignored, precisely because, as the speaker tells us, he is "one-and-twenty." He hears the same man offer the following words when he was the same age:

"The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
'Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue."

The poem ends with the assertion that, now that the speaker is "two-and-twenty," he has discovered that these words are "so true." Thus the poem talks about the hubris of the young and how we feel we know everything and can ignore advice, even advice which is very true and sensible. The speaker, because of this youthful sense of arrogance, ignored the advice that he was given and as a result, gave his heart away and realised that such an act causes great sadness and suffering. The poem thus captures the emotional growth and development of a young man who learns the dangers of love.

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