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)
Though my favorite poetry comes from the ingenious minds of Robert Frost, William Blake and Allen Ginsberg…William Butler Yeats has always held a very special place in my heart. An Irishman with a fondness for the most transcendental aspects of life, I’ve come to find that Yeats always epitomizes my feelings surrounding the fleetingness of love. But I suppose, with the most permanent and profound love I’ve ever felt in my life as of late, I might have to digress to the sonnets of Elizabeth Barrett Browning for a short while.
Until then, I hope this poem brings about that familiar tightening in the throat as it did to me the first time I read it. For what a wonderful feeling it is to experience something so crippling during our time on this earth…something that truly validates the most humane aspects of our existence. And, even greater so, that we had a man such as Yeats to show us how to take an emotion so painful and create something absolutely beautiful from it.