Young and Foolish The poem When I was one-and-twenty by A.E. Housman conveys two different ideas that seem to come together. The ideas that with age comes wisdom, and saving your heart for true love to avoid getting hurt, are expressed in this poem as a twenty-one year old learns a lesson the hard way.
As the poem begins, the young man is being advised by someone he calls "a wise man" (Housman 142). Though it never directly tells the age of the man, the poem makes it fairly clear that he is an older person. It is also clear through the speech that he makes to the young man, that he has learned a hard lesson through experience, a lesson of loving and losing.
"Give crowns and pounds and guineas but not your heart away; give pearls away and rubies but keep your fancy free" (Housman 142-143). Love is not something that can be bought in a store.
A heart should not be treated like a pair of socks. When it rips, it cannot be replaced. Giving your heart away before true love is a huge mistake, it can only cause pain and hurt. The wise man's speech conveys the idea that waiting for true love and not rushing into it will lead to ultimate happiness.
Young people are stubborn and believe that they know everything already. "But I was one-and-twenty, no use to talk to me" (Housman 143). The young man in the poem did not want to listen to the wise man because he did not think that anyone else had been through what he was going through, so why should he listen to him? At the end of the poem when the man is "two-and-twenty" (Housman 143), and has experienced the pain and heartache of loss, he realizes that the wise man was right all along. But the young man needed to experience it for himself to really learn a lesson.
The tough lesson that the young man in the poem When I was one-and-twenty by A.E. Housman showed how stubborn and foolish young people can be. Listening to some simple advice from someone with experience could have saved a lot of heartache. Waiting to give his heart away could have found the young man true love.