William Butler Yeats

(13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939 / County Dublin / Ireland)

A Song


I THOUGHT no more was needed
Youth to polong
Than dumb-bell and foil
To keep the body young.

O who could have foretold
That thc heart grows old?

Though I have many words,
What woman's satisfied,
I am no longer faint
Because at her side?

O who could have foretold
That the heart grows old?

I have not lost desire
But the heart that I had;
I thOught 'twould burn my body
Laid on the death-bed,

For who could have foretold
That the heart grows old?

Submitted: Tuesday, May 15, 2001
Edited: Tuesday, May 15, 2001

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  • Andrew Hoellering (12/14/2009 10:57:00 PM)

    There is an interesting contrast here with Thomas Hardy's great poem, 'I Look into my Mirror.'

    I LOOK into my glass,
    And view my wasting skin,
    And say, 'Would God it came to pass
    My heart had shrunk as thin! '

    For then, I, undistrest
    By hearts grown cold to me,
    Could lonely wait my endless rest
    With equanimity.

    But Time, to make me grieve,
    Part steals, lets part abide;
    And shakes this fragile frame at eve
    With throbbings of noontide.

    Yeats laments that the heart grows old, even though one keeps the body in shape.
    He still feels sexual desire, but regrets that he is unable to satisfy it in others.He in fact mourns the death of the heart, without specifying exactly where it lies.
    Hardy's poem is a complete contrast.Looking into his mirror, he objectively notes the destruction wrought by age and wishes that his capacity to feel had diminished alongside with his features.
    The second verse tells us that what hurts most is the falling off of affection towards him; the felt loss of love from those who mean most to him.
    He notes that bodily and emotional decrepitude - the capacity to feel and care –do not go hand in hand; one dies piecemeal.
    The ‘throbbings of noontide’ refers not just to memories but to this lasting capacity to feel and care.
    So much in three verses, using ballad form and a simple abab rhyme scheme, is itself a definition of genius. (Report) Reply

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