When You are old is a love-lyric that sings of the fleeting nature of love. It represents one of the most important side of yeats poet- his love-poetry and his lyricism. It typifies many of the which distinguish Yeats as a poet.
Development of Thought
In the first place, this poem presents the conception of Love is for him a spiritual rather than a physical passion. It lives the peaks of mountains and is hid among the stars. But the poet ale notes the evanescence of love, its fleeting nature, and its transience Love, especially love that is born out of the beauty of the beloved’s face or eyes, dies and is forgotten. It is remembered with regret Against this love stands love of a higher nature-the love of the “pilgrim soul” -a deeper, and spiritual love.
Secondly, this poem expresses the poet’s powerful sense of the sad change that inverts every material. Beauty fades; love dies. Life is beautiful but ever-changing. Nothing has permanence-except, perhaps the “pilgrim soul.”
Thirdly, this poem, also captures the poet’s regret, his wistfulness and his sadness. The whole poem is pervaded with a melancholy and arouses a feeling of pathos. The poet pictures a beautiful woman grown old, living in a world of sad thought, sweet memories, recollecting the days when her eyes were soft and deep and her body graceful and supple when there were many who loved her. Now, alas! love is fled with her beauty. She sits near a fire, alone, dozing, thinking of the past that is gone for ever,
Fourthly, this poem, therefore, is a fine example of the poet’s lyricism. It is a song-short, sweet and sad. In twelve lines, the poet creates magic. He builds up a little world which lingers for ever in our imagination. The poem appeals to some of our deepest and most powerful feelings.
Fifthly, this poem is a good example of Yeats’s use of words. Als words are suggestive and evocative. They are vague, but the vagueness makes them expressive. The poet does not describe th lady in concrete detail, but uses words which give the gener impression of softness and beauty. Similarly, the phrase “pilig, soul”also becomes magical because of its suggestiveness. Finally, poet arouses vague feelings of beauty, mystery and wonder last two lines of the poem.
The theme of the poem is old age–the fleeting nature of Youth and beauty arouse love; with the coming of old age,, greying Hair and dying beauty, love, too, vanishes into “the mountains over-head”, and hides “his face amid a crowd of stars.” Youth identifies love with eternity, old age shows it to be as fleeting as all other things of life.
This oft-attempted theme, however, has been adopted by the od tackled in the most original manner. This general idea has clothed in the particularity of a concrete situation. The poet s to his beloved who is now young and imagines what she would when she grows old. Then, when years bow her down, she will perhaps someday remember how men once loved her for her looks, for her soft eyes which had “shadows deep”, for her glad grace. Then she shall feel sad and shall remember with regret how love has vanished into the cloud. One man-presumably the poet–alone loved, not her external charm, but her “pilgrim soul.” Thus, the poet embodies the general idea of the transience of love in the particular situation of an old woman remembering the good old days when men loved her, though they love her now no more.
A Tone of Regret
This situation that the poet creates, lends the poem a tone of wistfulness and regret, almost of pathos. With a rare vividness the poet draws a clear picture of this old lady of the future, her eyes full of sleep; her hair grey, nodding alone by a fire, reading old books and living in a sad world of old memories. The days of youth and beauty, with their lovers, are all gone, and she sits alone by the fire, her face softened by thoughts of bygone days.
The poet displays the skill of a great mastery in the matter of detail. He is able to build up his picture in words that are at once simple and vivid. The words he chooses are full of associations, so at they carry an atmosphere of regret around them. The description me lady in her old age is built up with a few deft touches. She is y grey and full of sleep. She nods by the fire. In her youth, she had It look about her eyes, which had shadows and the figure of the ” the poet yet uses words which allow us to build her up according to our fancy, and the picture that we make is bound to be beautiful. The vagueness of the words used is so suggestive that it particularises the picture more effectively than any concrete description would have done.
The last two lines of the poem are obscure when analysed, and yet they at once elevate the whole tone of the poems to a still higher level, the words are vague, but beautifully suggestive. Love is imagined to be “peace upon the mountain overhead” and to hide “his face amid a crowd of stars”
Thus, the twelve lines of this poem shows Yeats to be a master. Here is poetry of “dream, longing and music.”