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

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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


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

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Comments about this poem (A Last Confession by William Butler Yeats )

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  • 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.

    15 person liked.
    9 person did not like.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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...

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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...

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

    Looks fade but true love lasts and lasts.

  • Jerry Hughes (6/30/2006 3:16:00 AM)

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

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