When You Are Old Analysis

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This is a very somber, regretful and resigned poem. It has a quiet, dreamlike feeling to it, achieved by an undulating rhyme scheme (ABBA) and use of soft-sounding, uncomplicated words that are nevertheless powerful. The theme is the painful one of unrequited love, which Yeats manipulates in an interesting manner. Instead of focusing upon the present or the past, as is usually the case with this often used theme, Yeats looks to the future, a future in which the two people in the poem are destined to be forever apart. That the unhappy ending only becomes apparent in the last stanza makes it all the more poignant; the first two stanzas are somewhat ambiguous - it is unclear as to what the situation is regarding the relationship being written about. The first stanza is an introduction, setting the scene and immediately creating a soothing, thoughtful and dreamlike atmosphere. Yeats achieves this by careful word selection in his description of the future. Phrases such as "old and gray, "full of sleep, "nodding by the fire, "slowly read, "dream of the soft looks” all serve to calm readers, lull them into the same drowsiness that the narrator imagines the subject of his poem will be in so many years' time. The punctuation enforces this feeling, by heavy use of commas to slow the pace of the sentences. The second stanza is an expression of his love for her, claiming that only he loved her beyond physical attraction. Whereas others "loved your beauty with love false of true, he loved her "pilgrim soul; in other words, he loved her ever-changing (hence the word "pilgrim) personality; he loved her all the time, no matter "the sorrows of your changing face.” Delivering the main emotional impact of the poem, the last stanza reveals how his love was never returned. The ?nal two lines describe how love evaded them both:

And paced upon the mountains overhead

And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

This is a very strong image; the night sky is...
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