William Butler Yeats

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

When You Are Old - Poem by William Butler Yeats

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.

Form: Sonnet

Comments about When You Are Old by William Butler Yeats

  • Anne Yun Anne Yun (5/3/2016 4:51:00 AM)

    the most beautiful part of life should be passing away naturelly, but what makes it even more beautiful is a poem like this (Report) Reply

    3 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Rajnish Manga Rajnish Manga (4/18/2016 12:54:00 PM)

    Wonderful pen-sketch of an old man. Very thoughtful and emotional portrayal. Thanks. (Report) Reply

  • Tapan M. Saren Tapan M. Saren (3/1/2016 9:09:00 AM)

    Just love it (Report) Reply

  • Aabid Masroor Aabid Masroor (1/26/2016 9:16:00 PM)

    I love this poem, this is how beauty and complaint of love is expressed..luv you (Report) Reply

  • Leloudia Migdali (1/18/2016 3:33:00 PM)

    What a wonderful poem! 'Hid his face among the stars'! (Report) Reply

  • Thomas Case Thomas Case (12/3/2015 4:58:00 PM)

    This is a beautiful love poem (Report) Reply

  • Charity Nduhiu Charity Nduhiu (8/17/2015 7:49:00 AM)

    I have liked this poem so much and keep on reading it again and again. Good work William (Report) Reply

  • Fabrizio Frosini Fabrizio Frosini (8/5/2015 12:29:00 PM)

    '' When you are old and grey and full of sleep ''

    what a striking image of the old age.. (Report) Reply

  • Angel Dzidula-komla Angel Dzidula-komla (8/2/2015 4:45:00 PM)

    Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep; (Report) Reply

  • Naida Nepascua Supnet Naida Nepascua Supnet (5/18/2015 3:59:00 AM)

    A great poem from a great poet.
    So assuring, so loving- one that can make one feel loved. (Report) Reply

  • Stacy-ann Duhaney Stacy-ann Duhaney (5/10/2015 12:44:00 PM)

    One of my Favourite poems from W.B. Yeats so beautiful... (Report) Reply

  • Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (8/29/2014 11:16:00 PM)

    The great poet and one of his great poem and it is about love. So beautifully it is imagined and written. (Report) Reply

  • * Sunprincess * (6/9/2014 6:48:00 AM)

    ...........so poignantly beautiful....so nicely captured is the feeling of sadness when love has fled to the stars..... (Report) Reply

  • 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. (Report) Reply

  • 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. (Report) Reply

  • 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. (Report) Reply

  • 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. (Report) Reply

  • 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... (Report) Reply

  • 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. (Report) Reply

  • 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. (Report) Reply

    Amy Michelle Mosier (7/26/2014 7:37:00 PM)

    You are thinking of that Twilight Zone episode where the old man pays 5000 for a new younger body but can't afford his wife's new body. The Trade-Ins is what it's called.

Read all 28 comments »

What do you think this poem is about?

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

Poem Submitted: Thursday, May 17, 2001

Poem Edited: Thursday, May 17, 2001

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