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.

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Mercedes Dembo
about 4 years

The poem is based on a sonnet by Pierre de Ronsard, Sonnets Pour Hélène (1578):
"Quand vous serez bien vieille, au soir, à la chandelle,
Assise auprès du feu, dévidant et filant,
Direz, chantant mes vers, en vous émerveillant :
Ronsard me célébrait du temps que j’étais belle...."

Yeats speaks to the woman he loves Maud Gonne, an Irish revolutionary, their relationship failed. The topics of the poem are love, loss and regret and although based on the poet’s own personal experience, the sentiment echoed in this poem is common to most refused lovers. The way I see it; outer beauty, appearance doesn't stand the passing of time, it comes from our physical heritage; but the inner beauty comes from our own growth of consciousness that we are carrying from many lives. Our innermost dignity, our innermost grace floods our outer being to, that grace changes not only the inner, but gives a new appearance to our outer being: an innocence, a tranquility, a depth, a peace, a love, a joy.


Cuando ya seas vieja, canosa y vencida por el sueño ,
y dormitando junto al fuego tomes este libro,
y lo leas lentamente y sueñes con la mirada suave
que tus ojos tuvieron antaño, y con sus hondas sombras;
cuántos amaron tus instantes de alegre donaire;
pero sólo uno amó en ti tu alma peregrina,
y también las aflicciones de tu cambiente rostro;
e inclinándote junto al resplandor de los leños,
susurres algo apenada cómo huyó el amor ,
anduvo allá arriba por los montes
y escondió su rostro entre un tropel de estrellas.

Traducción Mercedes Dembo

Maria Do Céu Pires Costa
about 5 years

Wonderful thread! The poet's voice echoes a time of old age, and reminds the reader of past moments of beauty and glad grace.

Cory Garcia
about 7 years


over 7 years

I love Yeats & poetry in general (my name is Tennyson) but find the theme of the lyrics on anything about aging very sad. We need to focus on the positive more both in serious litrature & comedy. Some comedy is actually degrading & belittling unfortunately. HT

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