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

Form: Sonnet

# 70 poem on top 500 Poems


Do you like this poem?
212 person liked.
28 person did not like.

Read poems about / on: beauty, dream, fire, sleep, love, change, sorrow, star

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Comments about this poem (When You Are Old by William Butler Yeats )

  • Gold Star - 24,387 Points Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (8/29/2014 11:16:00 PM)

    The great poet and one of his great poem and it is about love. So beautifully it is imagined and written. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 13,873 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

  • Rookie 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

  • Rookie 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

  • Freshman - 532 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 Brian Dorn (7/26/2006 12:19:00 PM)

    Looks fade but true love lasts and lasts. (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 1,195 Points Jerry Hughes (6/30/2006 3:16:00 AM)

    What an absolutely beautiful and charming poem. W B Yates, I dips me lid... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie 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 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 sheila knowles (7/27/2005 3:54:00 PM)

    This is my all time favourite poem.. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie 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 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

Read all 17 comments »

Famous Poems

  1. Phenomenal Woman
    Maya Angelou
  2. Still I Rise
    Maya Angelou
  3. The Road Not Taken
    Robert Frost
  4. If You Forget Me
    Pablo Neruda
  5. Dreams
    Langston Hughes
  6. Annabel Lee
    Edgar Allan Poe
  7. Caged Bird
    Maya Angelou
  8. If
    Rudyard Kipling
  9. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
    Robert Frost
  10. A Dream Within A Dream
    Edgar Allan Poe
Trending Poets
Trending Poems
  1. Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
  2. The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
  3. I Slept Like A Baby Last Night, JAMES T. ADAIR
  4. Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
  5. Dreams, Langston Hughes
  6. If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
  7. Fire and Ice, Robert Frost
  8. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
  9. If, Rudyard Kipling
  10. A Dream Within A Dream, Edgar Allan Poe
[Hata Bildir]