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When I was One-and-Twenty

When I was One-and-Twenty


by A.E. Housman

Analysis: What's Up With the Title?

Well, we hate to point it out, but the "title" of this poem is actually the first line of the poem. Chances are that the poem, which appeared in a collection of poems by Housman entitled "A Shropshire Lad," didn't actually have a title when it was published initially. In fact, it was just referred to by its numerical place in the lineup of 63 poems.

So the real question here is "Why doesn't this poem have a title?" And the answer to that…well, that's a little trickier to come by. After all, A.E. Housman hasn't been available for interviews for quite a while now. Here at Shmoop, though, we've managed to put together some educated guesses. Here are our best thoughts:

  1. Housman wanted all of the poems in his collection, "A Shropshire Lad," to seem like intimate glimpses into a young boy's life – sort of like stealing and publishing some little kid's journal. You don't normally title your journal entries, do you? But Housman wants to maintain the illusion of browsing through someone's intimate thoughts. No titles necessary.
  2. Like many lyric collections, A Shropshire Lad interweaves similar themes through several of the poems. Giving them each separate titles would signal that you intend to consider each as a separate work – instead of thinking through the ways that the poems all relate to each other. Skip the titles, and you'll be forced to thumb through numbered poems – perhaps reading some along the way.

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