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When I was One-and-Twenty

When I was One-and-Twenty

by A.E. Housman

Analysis: Setting

Where It All Goes Down

Frankly, we're not all that sure where this poem is set – and that's largely because our speaker doesn't go about the business of writing love poems in any traditional way. We don't get any comparisons to brooks or sunshine or flowers that would allow us to think of the poem taking place in the woods or meadows or gardens of our speaker's little world.

Sure, if we believe the title of the poetry collection from which this little gem was pulled, our speaker is a "Shropshire lad." (Quick translation: Shropshire is a rural area in southern England. A lad is a young boy.) Given that hint, we'd be inclined to say that our speaker is from Shropshire.

Here's the problem with that analysis, though: Housman had never even been to Shropshire when he published his poems. It's not surprising, then, that this speaker doesn't seem to have any telling Shropshire-like characteristics. In fact, although he's definitely young, he doesn't seem to have too many personal attributes at all.

In fact, if we were to think of a metaphorical home for our speaker's life, it'd probably be the stock market. Or craigslist. We can see it now: "For sale: One Heart. Probably worth bunches of money. Willing to exchange for a casual encounter." After all, this poem pivots on the concept of love for sale. So, to make it work, it's got to take place somewhere where the selling is good!

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