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 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 among a crowd of stars.


  1. The is a lovely poem. Yeats is one of my favorites.

  2. A poem whose beauty has grown richer with the passing years...

  3. I posted this once too.

    "one man loved the pilgrim soul in you"


  4. It caught my breath to see this poem here. If I had to come up with my five favorite poems this would be on the list. Sharing here: my mother died in 2000 (after a full robust life) and my husband and I scattered her ashes off a whaling boat on the Oregon coast as she had requested. We were alone, except for the boat captain and skipper, who were inside the cabin. Suddenly the moment was upon me and I realized I hadn't prepared anything to say, hadn't brought anything to read. What came, from memory, was this poem. It was an astonishing moment in an astonishing moment. I think she would have approved.

  5. Thank you all for leaving bits of your thoughts here. This is a beautiful poem, and I have found it more beautiful as I age and see its depth. I thought I liked it as a young girl but realize now how much of that was just drama and play-acting.
    Lydia, love the visual I have of that whaling boat off the Oregon coast and the wind lifting your mother's ashes and setting them down on the grey, rolling sea as you recited these words. That must have been something to experience. Thank you.

  6. This is one of my absolute favorite poems ever...though I go back and forth on how to read it...on the one hand it brings tears to my eyes...particularly the "soft look your eyes once had" and "one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face."

    On the other, it can make me laugh, to think of the poet as more sly than sad...presenting a scenario that can still be avoided to the young woman he fancies....


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