The Young Ones

Elizabeth Jennings


Elizabeth Jennings

Nationality: English

Elizabeth Jennings was a British poet and writer known for her lyrical and introspective style.

Her first collection was Poems in 1953.

Elizabeth Jennings is well-known to best portray the subject of generation gap, such as in ‘The Young Ones’. She has several poems in her arsenal that are centered on the subject of generation gap. Just as she has presented the generation gap theme in her poem, Father to Son, and expressed the lack of understanding between a father and a son, similarly, she has portrayed the youths who are free like the wind without bounds, without cultures barriers, and without any concerns for the aged.

In the poem, ‘The Young Ones’, she has tried to compare her own young-hood to the youths of today. With a very easy to use sentence structure and style of language, she has presented the pictures of youths in a very carefree and casual way as the youths are normally found to be. In the poem, she experiences the generation gap on a bus journey, and bring forth the behavior of youths through the use of all possible poetic devices.

The Young Ones By Elizabeth Jennings


The Young Ones Analysis

Stanza One

In this first stanza of ‘The Young Ones’, which you can read in full here, Jennings describes the young slipping on to the bus. From the very first line, she tries to create a picture of youth the way she describes them when she says: these are the youths of today who have their hair piled up high. Every month you can find them in new styles. They are still the unread faces, with no marks of maturity and no bitterness of experiences shown on their faces. They are as fresh as the flowers.

They are the unread pages of that book which is yet to be read and understood. They are not more than fifteen or so in age. At this stage, you cannot expect from them more than what is in and what is out. They are fully fashion-freaks. Sitting in the bus, I look at them and try to read their unread faces, but at the same time do not want them to look at me.

Thus, the poet has fully devoted the first stanza of this poem to the youths, their styles, and their youthfulness. The way, the poet has presented these youths in her first stanza; she already creates a preface by describing and segregating them from the old persons. And the most important point to note in describing the youths in this very first stanza is that the poet is going to compare her young-hood with these youths, and this is made clear in the second stanza.


Stanza Two

Yes, in this second stanza, she compares her own youthfulness and young-hood with the youthfulness and young-hood of today’s youths who are carefree like a blowing wind, adopting all new and discarding all that’s been old.

Reminding and recalling her youth time, she says that she was not so when she was in their stage. Instead, she used to be huddled in her school coats, and there also used to be a satchel that kept hanging lop-sided on her shoulder.

With the descriptions of her own days, she may also be trying to remember those days that she misses after having seen the youths of today. However, let me tell you here most of the aged persons are normally found to dislike the youthfulness of today’s youths. And if said in other words, it can be said that they may even feel jealous of their ways of living a life.

So, through the above two lines, the poet wants to show the gap that has been created between yesterday’s and today’s generation and even compares her own days with the days of today’s youths.


Stanza Three

In these lines of ‘The Young Ones, the poet talks about how today’s youth react to the world out there. She says that the days are passé when there used to be prolonged discussion, today; there is no such thing to talk. Youths of today enjoy their adolescence, without worrying about others.

They don’t want to waste their time in useless talks; instead, they want to live every moment of their lives to the fullest. There is no talk of ‘awkward ages’ in their discussion, there is no talk of failures in their discussion rather they talk about the achievements, the styles, fashions, and the hottest in the industry.

On the contrary, we had a lot to discuss about the old things, the poet says. Though by giving an account of their nimbleness and youthfulness, the poet is really trying to draw a line between the old generation and new generation, yet it is a well-known fact one day all of use to come to the stage where our elders have been, and then there will be a new generation taking about the new things, styles, and fashion of their time.


Stanza Four

This is the stanza that gives a very different picture of today’s youths. Where in previous stanzas, the poet was speaking of the youthfulness of today’s youths, in the above lines; she pictures them as inexperienced and old-fashioned.

Where she has talked about the free will of today’s youth, in these lines she has expressed the childish gazes that these youths have while gazing. With these lines, the poet wants to say that no matter how much fashionable these youths are, they are yet to learn about a lot of things.

They may have their hair piled up high, but the day will come when they won’t even look at the mirror. They may know about the latest fashion, and can even make use of them as early as possible, but the day will come when they would avoid looking at the fashionable things. The poet says that no matter how fashionable they are, their faces are still unfinished and their gazes are still childish.


Stanza Five

This is the last stanza of ‘The Young Ones, wherein Jennings talks about her caliber of living through all stages, feeling both young and old. She says that today she is at such a stage from where she can peep through her young-hood and even enjoy her old age at the same time.

She has no regret. She can still remember and mock at an ‘old-time’ dance. She is not like today’s youths who are carefree and avoid talking about the serious issues, rather she can easily recall how she was different from these days youths, and how today’s youths are old-fashioned when it comes to knowledge at the grass level.

She ends up the poem by saying: there are “So many ways to be unsure or bold.”


About Elizabeth Jennings

Born in Boston and died in 2001, Elizabeth Jennings began to write poems on encouraged by one of her schoolteachers as well as by an uncle, who himself was a poet. And most of the poems that she wrote during her early stage were inspired by Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, G. K. Chesterton’s “Battle of Lepanto”, and then the odes of Keats.

After this, Jennings had the influence of Edwin Muir and Robert Frost in her latter poems. While reading through Jennings’s poems, you will find that there is an avoidance of decoration, an absence of vagueness, and an eschewing of any mystification. In almost all of her poems, the readers find a strong logic and emotional sensitivity.

And if we talk about the style and language of Jennings’s poems, you will find them quite simple and easy to understand. Her use of words and sentence structure in the poems are so well-woven that even a layman can understand them with much easy. There is hardly any literary decoration and pretentiousness to be seen her poems like other poets of her time have.


Personal Comments

As I have already discussed in the poem above that Jennings’s most of the poems are focused on the theme of the generation gap, and have a very strong logic and emotional sensitivity. Hence it can be said that Jennings writes what she experiences and has experiences having been between these two generation.

I can’t say whether it is her personal experiences or she has woven it with the passage of time, but she completely succeeds in conveying the message that she wants to convey through her poems.

Where in her poem, Father to Son, she has tried to bring forth lack of misunderstanding between a father and son, in this poem; she has tried to ignorance, youthfulness, and comparison of her adolescence with the youths of today.

She says that today’s youths may be stylish in their hair style and fashionable cloths, but they cannot compete the time that she has passed.

Dharmender Kumar Poetry Expert
Dharmender is a writer by passion, and a lawyer by profession. He has has a degree in English literature from Delhi University, and Mass Communication from Bhartiya Vidhya Bhavan, Delhi, as well as holding a law degree. Dharmender is awesomely passionate about Indian and English literature.

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