When I Was One-and-Twenty

By A. E. Housman 1859–1936
When I was one-and-twenty
       I heard a wise man say,
“Give crowns and pounds and guineas
       But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
       But keep your fancy free.”
But I was one-and-twenty,
       No use to talk to me.

When I was one-and-twenty
       I heard him say again,
“The heart out of the bosom
       Was never given in vain;
’Tis paid with sighs a plenty
       And sold for endless rue.”
And I am two-and-twenty,
       And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true.

Source: Father: An Anthology of Verse (EP Dutton & Company, 1931)

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Poet A. E. Housman 1859–1936

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Living, Coming of Age, Relationships, Love, Men & Women, Classic Love, First Love, Unrequited Love, Break-ups & Vexed Love

 A. E. Housman

Biography

At first glance nothing seems more unlikely than that the poet of the enormously popular A Shropshire Lad should be the classical scholar A. E. Housman. This Cambridge University professor of Latin left no doubt as to his priorities: the emendation of classical texts was both an intellectual search for the truth and his life's work; poetry was an emotional and physiological experience that began with a sensation in the pit of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Coming of Age, Relationships, Love, Men & Women, Classic Love, First Love, Unrequited Love, Break-ups & Vexed Love

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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