I read The Young Ones (1964) by Elizabeth Jennings (1926-2001) again recently, and I thought that if I substituted ‘Luas’ or ‘Dart’ for ‘bus’ it easily be a scene in Dublin in 2013. Not that much has changed, it seems to me, except the hair styles of the young women. I often look at teenagers in Dundrum Shopping Centre and think that they look so much more self-assured than I did at their age. I can sympathise both with the satchel and the school coat; at one point I think I had a grey duffel coat which was hardly the height of teenage glamour. One of ‘The Young Ones’ I was not. Perhaps that’s true of most of us in each generation.
The Young Ones
They slip on to the bus, hair piled up high.
New styles each month, it seems to me. I look,
Not wanting to be seen, casting my eye
Above the unread pages of a book.
They are fifteen or so. When I was thus,
I huddled in school coats, my satchel hung
Lop-sided on my shoulder. Without fuss
These enter adolescence; being young
Seems good to them, a state we cannot reach,
No talk of ‘awkward ages’ now. I see
How childish gazes staring out of each
Unfinished face prove me incredibly
Old -fashioned. Yet at least I have the chance
To size up several stages-young yet old,
Doing the twist, mocking an ‘old time’ dance:
So many ways to be unsure or bold.
For Elizabeth Jennings poem, I have once more borrowed from The Oxford Book of English 20th Century Verse (with many thanks to the late Philip Larkin’s choices). However, as I have used the cover already and in any case it is rather a sombre jacket to depict the bright young things of the ‘Swinging Sixties’ I have snipped a picture of the edition that The Young Ones originally appeared in. The lovely looking cover of Recoveries (Deutsch, 1964) is tempting me to indulge in a purchase. I only know a handful of Elizabeth Jennings’ poems so this would be a nice addition to my TBR Pile.
Now I just need an excuse to treat myself….any suggestions will be gratefully received…