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 (1865-1939) had a lifelong love affair with Maud Gonne, whom he met when he was 23. She was an Irish revolutionary, famous for her nationalist politics and her beauty. They each married someone else, but she was his Muse. He was very political too, but though his poetry became more modern in later years he never left traditional verse forms. He became a senator of the Irish Free State at 57, won the Nobel Prize at 58, and was one of the founders of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.