Poetry Friday: When You Are Old


When You Are Old

by William Butler Yeats

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 once had, 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
William Butler Yeats
Maud Gonne, photo from All the Olympians, by Ulick O’Connor

This poem always stirs up nostalgic feelings in me. In just a few words, Yeats evokes the  beauty of the muse of his youth, Maud Gonne. And yet, “Love fled…and hid his face amid a crowd of stars.” Happy endings are not always possible, but our memories are with us always.

I sometimes think that I’m too nostalgic, but there was an article in the New York Times earlier this week about the positive aspects of nostalgia. Researcher Constantine Sedikides and his colleagues have found that “Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom, and anxiety” as well as “make people more generous to strangers and more tolerant of outsiders.” Once again, poets know intuitively what it takes scientists years to figure out.

Be sure to visit Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty for the Poetry Friday Round Up.

Poetry Friday: The Lake Isle of Innisfree


The Lake Isle of Innisfree
Wikipedia Commons Photo by Kenneth Allen

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

William Butler Yeats

Today is the last day of school before spring break, and for the past couple of days people have been sharing their travel plans for next week. I’m looking forward to a relaxing week at home, but listening to everyone’s talk of flights and cruises got me thinking about vacations spent at my in-laws’ cabin on Beddington Lake in Maine. This poem has alway reminded me of those summers. Sadly, they no longer own the cabin, but I often think of all the fun we had swimming and canoeing there. I often hear its “water lapping [in my] deep heart’s core.”

Listen to Yeats read his poem at Poets.org Be sure to visit Diane at Random Noodling for the round-up of all today’s poetry.