Analysis of a Poem
When You are Old, by William Butler Yeats, represents and elderly woman reminiscing of her younger days. A past lover whispers to her as she looks through a photo album. Basically, Yeats is showing that as the woman gets older, she is alone, but she does not have to be lonely. She will always have her memories for companionship.
"When you are old and grey and full of sleep, and nodding by the fire" (l.1-2) depicts the woman in her age, needing to nap more frequently. He speaks of a book (l.2) and the "soft look" of her eyes (l.3-4). This book signifies a photo album that contains pictures of her as young adult.
Yeats speaks of her "glad grace" (l.5) as her willingness to help and serve her family. Many people adored her, but only one man loved her completely. Her late lover "loved the pilgrim soul" (l.7), her true self and spirit. "And love the sorrows of your changing face" (l.8) means simply that even as her face aged, the love he felt for her grew stronger.
"And bending down beside the glowing bars," (l.9) could be translated to as you're bending down to stoke the fire,' she'll mumble to herself about his death, "how Love fled" (l.10) and his soul climbing to heaven to live "amid a crowd of stars" (l.12).
In the last verse of When you are Old, William Butler Yeats uses personification of love to enhance the image of the late lover waiting for the elderly woman. Lines 10-12 "Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled, and paced upon the mountains overhead and hid his face amid a crowd of stars" give personal qualities to love. By capitalizing love, it becomes its own being, which waits impatiently, hence pacing the mountain. Yeats gives love a face hidden in the stars. The "face" is love's distinguishing characteristics, such as tenderness and sensitivity.
The conclusion of When You are Old leaves the woman smiling to herself over the memories she has. She knows that one day she will be reunited with her true love, so...
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