William Butler Yeats

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

When You Are Old


WHEN you are old and grey 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.

Submitted: Thursday, May 17, 2001
Edited: Thursday, May 17, 2001

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  • Veteran Poet - 4,404 Points * Sunprincess * (6/9/2014 6:48:00 AM)

    ...........so poignantly beautiful....so nicely captured is the feeling of sadness when love has fled to the stars..... (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 4,404 Points Stavroula Avgousti (10/25/2012 3:38:00 PM)

    A sadly beautiful poem turned into a melancolic ballad, exquisitely sung by Angelo Branduardi in his album Branduardi canta Yeats. (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 4,404 Points Jerry Wechsler (1/12/2012 2:57:00 PM)

    Ronsard is concerned with himself; Yeats barely refers to himself at all (one man) and delivers a prayer of devotion to his beloved. No other poet I've read compares. I have to look to Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Brahms before I can find art at this level. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 315 Points Juan Olivarez (5/3/2011 6:48:00 PM)

    The greatest of the modern English language poets, Yeats had the ability (and still does) to move anybody to tears with his words. A wonderful poet a very talented and extraordinary man. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 315 Points Lu Wenchao (11/11/2008 9:48:00 PM)

    This poem is very famous in China.We first know Yeats by this wonderful poem, which contain a story of Yeats himself that move us so deeply.From this poem, we konw what is the true love, we know how deeply love can be.This has been transferred into the famous poem of MUDAN, also been transferred into a popular song sung by SHUIMUNIANHUA, so we can see how arractive it was to us in China. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 315 Points Okay Okay (12/29/2007 10:47:00 AM)

    The 'clincher' has to be the use of the term 'pilgrim soul' - that's just such a perfectly coined compliment, eh? And it reflects so well on both the observer and the observed... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 315 Points Carmine Giambrone (4/24/2007 2:29:00 PM)

    This poem still moves me immensely, thirty-four years after I first read it and tearfully parted with my very first true love. It touches on so many themes...love, love lost and the inevitable passage of time. It confirms that it is the memories of moments past that will always endure. I still love the sound of it. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 315 Points Ivy Chang (2/16/2007 1:01:00 AM)

    This is the poem that made me a Yeats devotee. I 1st heard the poem on an episode of (I can't remember whether it was Twilight Zone or Outer Limits) . At that time, I didn't know who the poet was until I mentioned it to a friend who told me it was WB Yeats (she was doing Yeats for English Lit that year) . I started reading his poems and 20 years later, he's still my favourite poet. (Report) Reply

    Rookie - 315 Points Amy Michelle Mosier (7/26/2014 7:37:00 PM)

    You are thinking of that Twilight Zone episode where the old man pays 5000 for a new younger body but can't afford his wife's new body. The Trade-Ins is what it's called.

  • Rookie - 315 Points Lesa K (8/2/2006 2:54:00 PM)

    I love the images created in this poem. It is definately one of my favorites! It is one of the few poems I carry in my head, entirely memorized. Every line of it captivates me... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 493 Points Piero Bassanini (1/24/2006 3:13:00 AM)

    Ronsard's french original 'Quand vous serez bien vieille...' sounds gorgeous, but I find this english version more profound and meaningful. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 493 Points Michael Shepherd (9/3/2005 5:08:00 AM)

    I too have loved this poem all my life, because it says what poetry can say beyond words - that even when you've listed all that's gone - there's still love... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 493 Points Richard Bunch (1/5/2005 4:19:00 PM)

    When I first read Yeats, this was the poem. I've never gotten over it. As a result, Yeats' poetry is an all time favorite. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 493 Points Laura Leah Allan (5/28/2004 1:03:00 AM)

    However much I loved this poem as a young undergraduate, then as a young woman, a mother and wife I love it now most of all, in my later years as I realize how profoundly it expresses the sadness and the beauty of longing for love, life and youth. This poem is divine. (Report) Reply

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