What is the mood in the poem "When I was one-and-twenty" by A.E Housman?

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The tone of the poem is one of wry self-irony as the speaker recounts how he learned the hard way through actual experience what wiser people tried to teach him.

In the first stanza, the speaker tells of how a "wise" person him told him to give away things...

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The tone of the poem is one of wry self-irony as the speaker recounts how he learned the hard way through actual experience what wiser people tried to teach him.

In the first stanza, the speaker tells of how a "wise" person him told him to give away things but to hang onto his heart. He ends the stanza by saying he was only twenty-one and so wouldn't listen.

In the second stanza, the speaker notes that the same wise man told him that giving his heart away would lead to "rue" or sadness and regret. The poem ends with the speaker, now twenty-two, having apparently had his heart trampled, saying that the wise man's words are "true."

A year later, the speaker is sadder but wiser, as the tone of the poem conveys, and now able to confirm the wisdom of what he was told.

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I would use two words to describe the mood in this poem.  I would say that it is wry and wistful.

In the poem, the speaker is sort of sadly amused at himself.  He looks back at his attitudes back when he was one and twenty and thinks about how silly he was back in those days.  He thinks it is pretty funny that he had those sorts of attitudes.  He also, I think, sort of feels that it would have been nicer if he hadn't been so immature.

You might also say that the last line of the poem changes the mood.  It sort of makes it more of a funny poem.  Once we see the last line, we cannot help but laugh at the speaker who is looking back on his youthful foolishness even though he is only one year older.

So I think you can use either answer -- the mood of the speaker is wistful and wry, but the reader's mood once we read the last line is one of tolerant amusement at the foolishness of youth.

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