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.
When You Are Old, by W.B. Yeats, first appeared in The Rose, a collection of twenty-two poems published by William Butler Yeats in 1893. His works entered the public domain in 2010, 70 years after his death.
Many poems in the collection, The Rose, express Yeats’ unrequited love for Maude Gonne. Though she had resisted his courtship at the time The Rose was published, it is understood that her rejection of him was not complete, and during those years he did have some small glimmer of hope.