William Butler Yeats “When You Are Old” is a tribute to deeper love, an obvious interpretation of a poem that contains the word “love” five times in twelve lines. However, it is specifically the speaker’s personal analysis of what he imagines “love” to entail. It represents an elderly woman reminiscing of her younger days. A past lover whispers to her as she looks through a photo album.
This is a very somber, regretful and resigned poem. It has a quiet, dreamlike feeling to it. And uses uncomplicated words that are nevertheless powerful.
The theme is the painful one of deep love, which Yeats manipulates in an interesting manner. Instead of focusing upon the present or the past, as is usually the case with this often used theme, Yeats looks to the future, a future in which the two people in the poem are destined to be forever apart. Basically, Yeats is showing that as the woman gets older, she is alone, but she does not have to be lonely.
He is shows that thought she is old and she will always have her memories for companionship. “When you are old and grey and full of sleep and nodding by the fire” (1).Depicts the woman in her age, needing to nap more frequently and tend to get lazy. The poet is tries to emphasize the characteristics of elder women as they hit a certain age.
“And nodding by the fire, take down this book, and slowly read” (2). Yeats speaks about a book that may contain old memories or images from the past. As we tend to get old we often look back at images and things that may flash our memories. This book signifies a photo album that contains pictures of her as young adult. “Dream of the soft look your eyes had once, and their shadow deeps” (3).The following stanza intends to record the delights of her beauty and presence; these are features to be celebrated throughout history and he knows the importance of sharing them with others. Some readers may think he’s speaking of some darkness underneath the eyes very possibly. The reader can assume that the poet is trying to convey that the woman is not as well looking as she was when young.
“How many loved your moments of glad grace” (5). Yeats reminds his former lover of her “glad grace” that was loved by many in contrast.Loved by many as a happy and beautiful person, the aged woman is asked to recall the only man that loved her for who she was. He goes on to speaks more of vague memories that become mere vapors of thought when describing what eventually happened over time. “And loved your beauty with love false or true” (6). This is the part that makes me think she left him for another man, and he’s implying that the new guy’s love is false compared to his.
And that since time has passed and she thinks about it, she will learn that she made a mistake.I think that quote is self explanatory. “But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face” (7).
I think he is trying to prove that he loved her from the heat much rather than others. Some loved her because of her beauty and he is the only one that had true love for her. He still loves her as she grows older and is getting less beautiful. “And loved the sorrows of your changing face” (8). Some may consider this as the deepest stanza in the poem. In the following stanza Yeats is tries to make the reader understand his love for the women.He wants the reader to be able to imagine how much feelings and love he has for her.
In this stanza Yeats is suggesting that he was committed to her even in her sadness and through her shifting moods. “Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled, paced upon the mountains overhead, and hid his face among a crowd of stars” (10-12). According to Elisabeth Schneider 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 (51).Elisabeth Schneider believes the poet is looked down upon her from Heaven’s glowing gates; he is sad that he had to left her, but he leaves her this poem (52).
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. He paces the heavenly mountains, eagerly awaits the time when they will be reunited. He hides his face in the stars, so that she can’t see his pain.
A wistful tone is implied as the reader pictures the woman sadly acknowledging the loss of her adoring poet.