Print this page

Love Poem of the Week #3

Christa Deitrick, Librarian, Literature & Fiction Department,
W. B. Yeats

And now for a classic "you'll miss me when I'm gone" poem, courtesy of William Butler Yeats. Yeats was an impressive man--poet, playwright, Irish patriot, spooky occult guy, and winner of the 1923 Nobel Prize in Literature. Despite his many accomplishments, he was not impervious to l'amour. The poem below (first published in 1893) was written for Yeats' great muse, a comely and feisty English heiress by the name of Maud Gonne, who would turn down all four of his marriage proposals. Finally, at the age of 52, Yeats married 25-year-old Georgie Hyde-Lees, to whom he remained wed (if not entirely faithful) until his death in 1939.

When You Are Old

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.

—William Butler Yeats

Recommended Reading:

Complete Poems, 1913-1962
The Autobiography of William Butler Yeats
W.B. Yeats Poems (Listen to his poems on CD!)