When You Are Old : quotations

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When You Are Old is a notable literary work by William Butler Yeats. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of When You Are Old.


When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

Explanation: The speaker mentions the scene of an older adult reflecting on their youth in a state of repose. The instruction to “take down this book” reveals a reflective act, urging the person to reminisce.

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

Explanation: The speaker facilitates the person to recollect the tender and profound gaze they once contained, emphasizing the depth of their emotions and the intensity of their past experiences.

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,

Explanation: The lines emphasize the multitude of admirers the person had, underlining that some loved them for their outward beauty, but their love may not have been genuine or sincere.

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled

Explanation: The speaker indicates the act of the older adult leaning down by the fireplace, reminiscing about how love has disappeared or left. The phrase “glowing bars” expresses the passage of time and the fading warmth of past emotions.

And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Explanation: The lines illustrate the elusiveness of love and suggest that it has climbed to celestial heights, beyond reach, and obscured itself among the stars, leaving the person with a sense of loss and longing.

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

Explanation: This line accentuates the importance of understanding and appreciating a person’s deeper spiritual aspects. The poem stresses that among the many admirers. Only one person truly enjoyed the inner essence of the individual (“the pilgrim soul”), including the person’s struggles and emotions as manifested in their changing facial expressions.