Study Guide

When I was One-and-Twenty Youth

By A.E. Housman

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When the speaker of "When I was One-and-Twenty" announces his age in the first line of this poem, you know that it's important. And hey – maybe the journey from 21 to 22 is life-changing enough for him to be able to say that he's moved from youthful idealism into grown-up…cynicism? We're not saying that 21 is a young age – but, in our speaker's case, it's a past that's so long ago he can barely remember what it felt like. What a difference a year makes, huh?

Questions About Youth

  1. Do you think that the speaker of this poem is actually 22? Or is he just pretending to be young? How can you tell?
  2. Do you think that the wise man is an older person or not? Why would age make a difference in how you interpret his advice?
  3. Does the speaker grow up by the end of the poem? Why or why not?

Chew on This

This poem is a classic example of an older person looking back at the follies of their youth.

At the end of this poem, the speaker is just as young and naïve as he was when the poem began.

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