A. E. Housman: Poems

Being One and Twenty 12th Grade

Turning 21 defines a threshold into adulthood where an individual’s actions define them further in life. By allowing leniency and the assurance to make mistakes and learn, 21 year old’s live free of obligation and constraint. Both “To Sir John Lade, on his Coming of Age” and “When I was One-and-Twenty” respectively by Samuel Johnson and A. E. Housman, characterize this feeling of freedom that comes with the age of 21. Through the individual structure and cadence of the poems both poets reflect on their experiences at age 21 and relay a message about freedom. By advising the readers how to experience life at 21 through different perspectives with attitudes of freedom in one and caution in the other, Johnson and Housman recommend an adventurous outlook of the future.

Each poem echoes advice to the twenty one year old in different perspectives to create a personal atmosphere. Johnson uses his poem to address Sir John Lade, a colleague, who he congratulates for enduring life and advises to let loose and enjoy the coming year. He writes, “Loosened from the minor’s tether,” explaining that Sir John is free from the expectations and obligations he was once bound by. Throughout his poem, Johnson uses words referring to birds including...

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