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Excusing my terrible pun, here is one of W.B. Yeat’s early poems (from The Rose, 1893) which, although very well known, remains a thing of loveliness no matter how many times I read it:

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 among a crowd of stars.

Surely only true love could eulogise the sorrows of one’s changing face, as Yeats does of Maud Gonne. Rarely has a poem so eloquently captured the intimacy between sorrow and love and is yet generous enough to celebrate the very freedom,  the pilgrim soul, which allows her to spurn his affection.

Of course, the main thrust is a warning of future regret for love gone beyond reach, but it is that second verse which catches me every time.

There is a great spoken version here.

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