When You Are Old
by 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 once had, 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.
This poem always stirs up nostalgic feelings in me. In just a few words, Yeats evokes the beauty of the muse of his youth, Maud Gonne. And yet, “Love fled…and hid his face amid a crowd of stars.” Happy endings are not always possible, but our memories are with us always.
I sometimes think that I’m too nostalgic, but there was an article in the New York Times earlier this week about the positive aspects of nostalgia. Researcher Constantine Sedikides and his colleagues have found that “Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom, and anxiety” as well as “make people more generous to strangers and more tolerant of outsiders.” Once again, poets know intuitively what it takes scientists years to figure out.
Be sure to visit Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty for the Poetry Friday Round Up.