In Yeats’ When You Are Old, one could see that the speaker spent most of his life besotted to the beautiful women, but sadly for him, the love was unrequited because the woman did not return the speaker’s feelings (Yeats 204). She declined his marriage proposal a couple of times, even though they remained friends throughout the speaker’s life. The speaker invites the woman to cast her mind forward in an age when she is old and grey; this was a time when she would no longer be glamorous as she was then, but a frail and old woman who that only good thing she would do is nod by the fireplace (Cullingford 9). The speaker asks the woman to take down a book, which appeared to be recounting her life or maybe more poems about her. It was designed to help the women recall her former glories. This would basically be a bitter sweet moment for the woman. This is because, on one hand, she gets to recall the days that she was beautiful and, on the other, she gets to see her true faded self. When the woman is old, she can only dream of her past. The poem, and more so the speaker, serve as a warning to the woman that she needs to cherish her past and the important people in her life. It is only the speaker who works to remind her of a great past and that if she does not cherish such individuals, she will have a terrible future (Harrington 43). He reminds the woman this by stating that most men loved her beauty, but he loved the pilgrim soul in her.
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- Cullingford, Elizabeth Butler. “’Thinking of Her… as… Ireland’: Yeats, Pearse and Heaney.” Textual Practice 4.1 (1990): 1-21.
- Harrington, John P., ed. Modern Irish Drama. New York: Norton, 1991.
- Yeats, William Butler. “Selected Poems.” HSC Advanced English (2009): 204