Monday, March 17, 2008

An Irish Poet for an Irish Day

When You Are Old

When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

William Butler Yeats, 1893

I think of this poem as a sort of last-ditch effort of the poet to win the heart of his love. If it had been written to me, it probably would have worked. Who would not prefer to be loved for one's soul, whether young or old, than one's beauty?

7 comments:

morpho aurora said...

what a beautiful thought, to be loved for the hard times and not the green ones. to be appreciated for the strength found in sorrow would be worth more to me than anything.

lizardrinking said...

Only one man, though, huh 'glo? bit presumptuous of him maybe. And one cannot look at oneself as others do, yet he knows how 'I' would remember myself? A nice read, though. Though did the love flee to the mountains due to rejection or fear? I misread poems all the time, so my interpretation could be very well all mixed up.

anglophile said...

Well, the way I read it, liz ;), is that this is his big argument for her to ditch the others and accept his love, because if she picks one of these others, she will find that Love will leave her in the end. She's not old yet, but she will be, and he wants to love her through all her pilgrimage of life, joys and sorrows included. I see the whole "no one will ever love you like I do" as a poetic convention, but also as a thought lovers have thought since we first came down from the trees. Anyway, we already know I fall for the whole discounting of physical beauty for the beauty of the soul. ;)

amy d said...

I'm in agreement with Glo here. There are times when I have reveled in the way a woman can use her looks to woo a man (I was young, okay?). But the high from that is short lived. I want to be seen adn loved for ALL that I am, including my strange quirks and my looks, my sex appeal, my humor, my loyalty and love of family.

lizardrinking said...

I agree with all three of you gals. But this guy says he is the only one who can see that and who will ever see it, and as 'glo says, it's a lovers' convention...but that still makes me laugh a bit...

Kathy Kathy Kathy said...

Hi Anglie,
I forgot about you over here. Sorry. This blog is a really good read. I got stuck on the first line because I'm seriously considering degrayifying.

anglophile said...

Silly Kath, no need to degrayify. Your hair is lovely as it is.