Study Guide

When I was One-and-Twenty Foolishness and Folly

By A.E. Housman

Foolishness and Folly

When I was one-and-twenty (1, 9)

Here, the speaker is playing off the basic idea that young = stupid.

I heard a wise man say, (2)

Calling someone else wise means that, well, our speaker is comparatively less-than wise. That's another name for foolishness, friends.

And I am two-and-twenty,
And oh, 'tis true, 'tis true. (15-16)

Here's the moral of the story: young man grows older. In so doing, he gets over his youthful folly. He's growing up, see? We can tell that he gets the point – if only because he starts to repeat himself to emphasize his point!

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