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When You Are Old Analysis



Author: poem of William Butler Yeats Type: poem Views: 28


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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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||




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The speaker of the poem addresses his beloved saying that when she is aged she should read a particular book which will remind her of her youth. She will remember the people who had loved her grace and her beauty with either real or fake sentiments in the past, and also that one man who had loved her soul unconditionally as she grew old and the way she looked changed. As she is reminded of him, she will regret her missed opportunity of true love.

| Posted on 2014-12-08 | by a guest


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Sad but true. It reminds me of another yearning poem of Yeats...\"Faith\" That one also brings the reader into their own longing for elusive singular human love. I think disappointment is the result, but we all keep hoping.

| Posted on 2013-04-29 | by a guest


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I believe this poem is written in such a way that allows readers to sympathise with Yeats and his doubts, and sadness at his experiences with love, and share their own stories though his poem. That could be why he didn\'t write it by saying \"but I loved the pilgrim soul in you\", but \"one man loved the pilgrim soul in you\", so anyone could fit this poem to their situations.

| Posted on 2013-04-07 | by a guest


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I see this poem in more of a spiritual context of love evolving to a higher love. There is true love of the man for the woman but with his emphasis of her as a pilgrim or loving the pilgrim soul in her it seems as though he is expressing a love that has been converted from or has now the element of a higher love, a more spiritual love or what is referred to as \"agape\" love. \"Murmur , a little sadly, how Love fled And paced upon the moutains overhead And hid his face amid a crowd of stars\", suggests that his love was unrequited or the relationship never became what it might have been for whatever reason. Because the relationship never came to full fruition, he had no choice but to love her in a more mature spiritual way, \"And paced upon the mountains overhead\", meaning at some point he became restless with the love that he no longer knew what to do with.\"And paced upon the mountains overhead And hid his face amid a crowd of stars\". Meaning the passionate and very human love he had for her became more selfless or spiritual with an emphasis on loving the pilgrim soul in her or the part of her that was her true soul and had nothing to do with her beauty. The crowd of stars speaks to me of more heavenly and eternal things. He hid his face amid a crowd of stars, meaning hid his very human love and loved her with a purer \"agape\" love. Either he made a concious choice to love her in this way because the other type of love wasn\'t resolved or his love gradually matured and evolved that way and remained an eternal love.

| Posted on 2013-03-24 | by a guest


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There are many great analyses here but everyone seems to make one assumption about the poem that is not actually evident in the lines themselves. If we ignore the particular details of Keat\'s life and just look at what the poem itself presents, we see there is no indication of an unrequitted love here, only a love that has fled. From the context of the poem, we could assume just as well that it was the woman who loved and whose love was not returned. Maybe Keats created this ambiguity intentionally to get at the message that even love itself is just as temporary and ultimately impersonal as everything else, such as an aging body, a mountain, or a field of stars. One of the deeply saddening facts of life is that nothing can be relied upon, not even love, for it is just as subject to change and death as everything else.

| Posted on 2012-12-28 | by a guest


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The first paragraph speaks of a gentleman who is telling his love to slowly recall her past as she nears death---both the good and bad times.
In the second paragraph he tells her that many loved her for her beauty and grace, but he alone loved her for who she really was, despite her sorrows and changing moods.
In the last paragraph, he asks her on that fateful distant day to recall a bit sadly how her love for him will have been lost amid the coming chapters of her life.

| Posted on 2012-10-26 | by a guest


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The whole poem speaks of a melancholic mood of loss both his and of the woman\'s. Is he bitter? angry? menacing? no I do not think so, not in using words like slowly, soft, dream or paced. Is there malice or contempt between the lines? no, hurt and disappointment. Men of Yeats generation felt they were the masters of the universe and could not (therefore, should not) fail at anything attempted. But times were changing, it was a time of revolutions, resolutions and repercussions. The fact that his love for this woman was rejected and speaks of both the love and her in the past, present and future, shows how determined he was to gain her love even if that love had changed. This is not a love poem, it is a loss poem. His dreams have been trampled on and reminds of another well known poem which has the line, \"I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.\"

| Posted on 2012-05-27 | by a guest


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This is not a nice poem. The speaker assumes that the subject will be alone because she has rejected his love that he assumes was inherently more valuable than anyone else\'s. This is incredibly arrogant. He commands her to \"murmur a little sadly\" over him, demonstrating a wish for his love\'s unhappiness. It is fantastically written and shows Yeats brilliant command of rhythm and imagery but it is not by any means a wholesome declaration of love, it is marred by bitterness and malice.

| Posted on 2012-05-13 | by a guest


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he loves somebody but then they die but he thinks love is immortal no matter what

| Posted on 2012-03-26 | by a guest


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i think this poem is beautiful, it shows the real meaning of love, even tho one is left broken hearted

| Posted on 2012-02-22 | by a guest


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The girl was loved for herself, the part of herself that made her real was loved, and her beauty didn\'t matter, and she loved back and he died and spread his love across everything for her to always see and believe in.

| Posted on 2012-01-16 | by a guest


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the poet is just showing his sorrows after being rejected by a pretty girl. he tells that a lot of men flirt with the girl but he declares to be the one who truly loves her. It is possible for her to regret the whole situation when she becomes old and mature enough to understand what true love means.

| Posted on 2011-11-12 | by a guest


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This poem creates a new dimension.there is a touch of mystery,immortality of soul is highlightedits perhaps rightly said that a great poem is communicated much before its understood nd its applicable to this beautifull piece of literature...

| Posted on 2011-09-26 | by a guest


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I found this poem to be particularly moving, given ways it seemed to relate to my own life.
Although much has been written as to the historical context of the poem, and its meaning relative to the author and his subject, its sustained popularity is likely due to the meaning that many readers are able to ascribe toward their own lives and experiences.
My Interpretation (in the form of a \"translation\" into what the piece means to me):
In your old age, and as you approach the end of your life
Take a moment to Remember and Reflect on the times of your youth;
All of those friends who loved your grace and beauty--sincerely or not;
But, also remember there was a man who knew and loved you in your innocence as you sought for your direction in life,
And would love you beyond the mere passing of your youth.
And as you reflect on this, remember, perhaps a bit sadly, how that love ended
And moved on to be just another face in the crowd.

| Posted on 2011-09-21 | by a guest


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I think this is a wonderful poem ...
A friend whom I got to know recently sent it to me on my birthday .... I was happy to receive it as it was nice ... I think it is the kind of relationship Yeats had for Maud... he loved her but also set her free ... He allowed her the freedom to be ...

| Posted on 2011-08-06 | by a guest


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the speaker is an old prson...he tells us that in old age eyes loose their light and so mant destructions we hav in our body.in young age everyone loves our beauty....and charmingness

| Posted on 2011-07-24 | by a guest


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This is an absolutely beautiful declaration of love and lost neatly wrapped in a poetic cloth. Although the rhythym in which the poem was written makes it appear that it may have been specific to the woes of love in Yeats own person life, it still has a very universal meaning for its readers. It is a simple reference to life, love and growth. It has been stated by many philosophers and poets alike that, \" It is at the end of a mans life that he realizes how foolish he was at the begining\". This poem is a true testament to the often ignorance of young/new love which in many cases may lead to its destruction. Old age is like the magnifying glasses of life. It is often in old age that you are left with the memories of both the mistakes and successes of your youth. We must look at life with the eyes of truth and realize that true love is a gift that should not be treated casually. Like any gift that is not taken in, it goes to the one who accepts it. This poem offers a warning to its readers to be observant to true love and what it can bring because love that is ignored and or not recipricated can easily become a regret. C.Roundtree 7/8/11

| Posted on 2011-07-08 | by a guest


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what is the form, of this poem? is it a sonnet or an epic. I really want to know what the rhyme scheme is as well

| Posted on 2011-04-25 | by a guest


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Yeats was able to caputer a full replica of the average mans journey through life, as shakes says\" all the worlds a stage and the men are merely players, they have their exist and entrances\" when shakespeare was on the third stage when he mentioned the \"lover\" this fully complements the poem, but this poem theme is surrounding on a loves lost, \" love fled\". Indicating that time is not on anyones side even when it comes to raw love.

| Posted on 2011-04-14 | by a guest


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Although autobiographical, the final quatrain holds more potential meaning than regret over rejected love. Yeats allows the woman to speak, just a murmer - what does she say? His name? A sound? A part of her calls to him, and a part of her calls to her lost self.
\"Love fled\" has always implied all the ways one loses love, because too much specific meaning would create an earthbound feeling at the end, while the loss of this Love has him pacing on mountains overhead (clouds) and hiding his face amid a crowd of stars. However their relationship progressed, he is dead now.
He stands in the corner of the room, still with her -- he is the one who cannot leave, while she is the one who had to live on alone. He hopes that she will still, out of the mists of memory, recall how he was the man who loved her soul.

| Posted on 2010-08-29 | by a guest


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this poem is bridge by yeats to people who think that they will never get old and their love will never die.moreover yeats wants people to link their youth to what is coming which is old and not to be faustrated about it.

| Posted on 2010-07-30 | by a guest


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THIS POEM IS ABOUT A WOMAN WHO DATES MANY MEN, BUT THE AUTHOR IS THE ONE WHO WILL GIVE HER ANAL, EVEN WHEN SHE IS OLD AND STANKY

| Posted on 2010-06-18 | by a guest


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Beautiful poem-- inspiring and gratifying while also saddening. I loved reading it.

| Posted on 2010-04-15 | by a guest


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One of the more remarkable aspects of Yeats’s poem, “When You Are Old,” is how the poet is present throughout the verses without actually appearing in them. Another interesting aspect is how, through the use of punctuation and alliteration, Yeats slows down the tempo of the iambic pentameter so the reader can actually feel the addressee’s age. The poem is narrated by one who has loved a beautiful woman; presumably, in this case, the addressee is Yeats’s own unrequited love, Maud Gonne. I will examine each of the quatrains to demonstrate that Yeats has interjected himself into this poem by the use of allusion and connotative diction without having to use the first person singular.
The first quatrain introduces the reader to the subject and the first line sets the tempo for the rest of the poem. In addition to his use of commas, Yeats utilizes the word “and” six times in this section, which slows the pace:
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;
If he had written: “When you are old, grey, full of sleep nodding by the fire” the pace would have been quicker and would not impart the feeling of age and melancholy he is obviously trying to convey. The terms “slowly read,” “dream,” “soft look,” and “shadows deep” denote an impression of other-worldliness, a period between waking and deep sleep when time is no longer relative and memories hover around the edge of darkness. In addition, the sibilant sounds of “sleep,” “slowly,” “soft,” and “shadows” imparts a sense of somnolence. The poet contrasts this dark opening with the next quatrain:
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;
Here Yeats uses a form of the word “love” five times to brighten the tone, especially in the first two lines. The tempo is still slow, but the ten syllables of the iambic pentameter seem more uplifting and almost reverential as he focuses on the “glad grace” and “beauty” of the subject. It is the last two lines, however, that the reader discovers the relationship the author has with the subject.
With a tone of yearning, the narrator announces that he is the one man who not only recognized the physical charms of this woman, but also loved her intrinsic nature, her “Pilgrim soul.” This reference also conveys a feeling of otherworldliness as we associate the word “Pilgrim” with someone who journeys afar, a non-conformist or free-spirit who is perhaps seeking a sacred place of devotion. These lines also convey the feeling of reverence the poet has for this woman. She is his ideal. Yeats never uses the first person singular here. He avoids saying “I loved your Pilgrim soul and sorrows of your changing face.” He creates a distance between himself and his muse and retains an anonymity among her other worshippers, which he confirms in the final quatrain.
Having interjected this brighter tone, Yeats returns the reader to the melancholy, but this time with a spark:
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountain overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars
In this quatrain, the woman is earth-bound as we see her bending down by the warmth of the fire; she is no longer the ethereal image of the second quatrain. Here, the poet does not unleash a flurry of bitter recriminations at her because of his unrequited love, but, instead, offers a self-effacing declaration of his devotion.
A wistful tone is implied as the reader pictures the woman sadly acknowledging the loss of her adoring poet, possibly her one true “Love.” Through the use of the capital “L” in “love,” Yeats has once again injected himself in the poem without the use of the word “I.” He is speaking directly to her as he paces overhead. Peering down from his lofty, but solitary, height, he wants her to look up from the glowing bars of an artificial flame to find him shining brightly among the stars.

The poem, “When You Are Old” appears to be a simple love poem on first reading. After careful analysis, however, we realize that Yeats has created a small autobiography without ever using the first person singular. Through word choice and strategic punctuation and alliteration he has slowed down the tempo of the iambic pentameter to impart an aura of melancholy and desire to describe his love of a once beautiful woman for whom, despite her advancing age, he still yearns.

| Posted on 2010-03-14 | by a guest


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Everyone seems to miss the obvious point of the poem. Namely: true love is indestructable no matter what happens and will go on out into the universe forever.

| Posted on 2010-03-10 | by a guest


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in the first stanza ..
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
-- yeats talks here on a girl of a present day
that when she become old she should recognize her flashbacks and memories .
2nd stanza
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 changing face
-- meaning many people are admiring her beauty
but there is a man who truly love and eager to love her even they became old
" together eternally " as they say
3RD STANZA ..
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
-- these lines says that
* the girl separated from the boy , and the girl didnt bring her love back , so the boy's love faded
* or the boy died before the woman

| Posted on 2010-02-12 | by a guest


.: :.

in the first stanza ..
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
-- yeats talks here on a girl of a present day
that when she become old she should recognize her flashbacks and memories .
2nd stanza
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 changing face
-- meaning many people are admiring her beauty
but there is a man who truly love and eager to love her even they became old
" together eternally " as they say
3RD STANZA ..
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
-- these lines says that
* the girl separated from the boy , and the girl didnt bring her love back , so the boy's love faded
* or the boy died before the woman

| Posted on 2010-02-12 | by a guest


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it is an amazing poem and that happened to many people like the poet himself so people must apreciate the same moment

| Posted on 2009-11-18 | by a guest


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This poem is beautiful and Yeats was a beautiful poet. The speaker (a man) wrote a poem to a girl he loves at the present day. He is telling her to look into the future when she is old and full of sleep (tired and old) and from that she'll look back (at this moment) at what she missed out. He says, that for her beauty and grace many have loved her (quite a popular girl) but that his love is truer; he loves her unconditionally, inside and outside. In the end he talks about the love fleeing away because of rejection. That is the consequence of her rejection. The poet himself was rejected by the same woman many times; so this could be about that..

| Posted on 2009-06-08 | by a guest


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lets all make love and discuss the poem in a state of post coital perceptiveness

| Posted on 2009-05-28 | by a guest


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i think there are multiple fluid meanings to the text, and thats why the poem is powerful and maintains its dramatic tension. i guess the last bit is either about death or lost opportunities through unrequited love

| Posted on 2009-02-17 | by a guest


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Yeats is pleading with Gonne in this poem to take him as her true love. A desperate plea before it is too late and he hides among the stars and she is too old.

| Posted on 2009-02-09 | by a guest


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A woman looking back on her life and thinking about all the things that have faded away, lost love and how few loved her for who she truly was on her long journey through life. In the end she is reminded of how love fled. "Hid is face among a crowd of stars" makes me think of possibly her loves death.

| Posted on 2009-01-04 | by a guest


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This is poem to Maude Gonne who Yeats loved desparately. He had just proposed to her and she said no. This poem is almost a warning that she will grow old without love which she could have had. He says that lots of people loved her for her looks (she was an actress) but he loved her for who she really was (the pilgrim soul). Pilgrim is chosen to represent the journey through age that he would have loved her through.The last line is an oxymoron. The night sky is usually a very romantic thing but his love tries to hide in it away and out of the reach of Maude Gonne.

| Posted on 2008-11-26 | by a guest


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This is aq man talking to his wife and telling her that when she is old she should remember all the great things that happened to her and all the [people that loved her and she should also remember how he was the one that loved her on the inside (her soul). Then he says when you sit down and think an=bout it you remember how he got rejected how love fled.

| Posted on 2008-09-23 | by a guest


.: ehehe :.

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.

| Posted on 2008-02-05 | by a guest


.: Poem :.

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.


| Posted on 2007-05-02 | by a guest


.: poem :.

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.
.

| Posted on 2007-05-02 | by a guest


.: poem :.

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.
.

| Posted on 2007-05-02 | by a guest




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