A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Poem of the Day: 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 amid a crowd of stars. 
--William Butler Yeats

The last time I did a Yeats poem, I maybe overstressed the virtues of the late poetry, so here's one from when he was not yet 30. The diction is simpler, and there's no politics, Irish mythology, or cosmological gyres at work, but the mastery of language is as breathtaking as it would ever get. And even here the preoccupation with aging that runs through the late poems is anticipated.