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

4 thoughts on “When You Are Old…

  1. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    One of my favorite poems, just because of the way Yeats had with words. He created word pictures that are so rich. Here’s another Yeats favorite, especially for this time of year. It’s also a bit melancholy, but perfect.

    AUTUMN is over the long leaves that love us,
    And over the mice in the barley sheaves;
    Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,
    And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.

    The hour of the waning of love has beset us,
    And weary and worn are our sad souls now;
    Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us,
    With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.

    William Butler Yeats

  2. paulacummings says:

    The first poem reminds me that I never want to be that person, that friends and family look back on with derision and contempt. I want to be that person who shines from the inside because of years of character building and having triumphed over bitterness and judgement. Simply, a good, kind, loving, forgiving Christian woman. Although that is a tall order (no pun intended). Thanks, you know I love my poetry!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Paula, I think first poem speaks of a true love(he that loves her ‘pilgrim soul’) that remains, after all the ‘surface’ loves (those that loved only beauty and grace)have departed.

    This is one hubby and I have loved for a long while.

    I recited a bit of it to him while on an autumn drive, not too long ago, in the evening twilight. I thanked him for loving my pilgrim soul, beyond my youthful beauty and grace, which has long fled. Of course, he got stern and silent as a German will do when fighting off tears. He is a good, deep-feeling man. A man in the best old-fashioned sense.

    Another we like to torment each other with is Keats’ This Living Hand.

  4. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    It’s the story of unrequited love, I guess. In this case love “hid its face among the stars.” Very artistic way of describing it. I like that line about the “pilgrim soul.” Not every man recognizes that in a woman nor appreciates it. It’s valued in men, in women? Not so much. But strong women with “pilgrim souls” are a great thing, I say.

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