Yeats and I, we go a roving.

14 Feb

If Yeats were alive today, I am convinced that he & I would be the best of friends. His poetry speaks to the very innermost parts of me. I hear his words in my deep heart’s core. Being Valentine’s Day, I thought it only appropriate to share some of my favourite poems by this esteemed Irish poet. His poetry speaks to what it is to love fiercely and steadfastly, as well as to what it is like to lose oneself in the madness of love gone awry. Most of his love poetry was inspired by his fervent devotion to Maud Gonne; a love that was initially unrequited. Yeats proposed to Ms. Gonne on several occasions, but was always turned down. It was not until years later (after her divorce from John MacBride) that Yeats and Maud finally consummated their relationship. Sadly, their romance was fleeting and Yeats was forever haunted by their brief encounter as lovers.

I have selected three poems to share with you, and although I cannot wholly verify it, I am convinced that all three were written with Maud in mind.

The Arrow

I thought of your beauty, and this arrow,

Made out of wild thought, is in my marrow.

There’s no man may look upon her, no man,

As when newly grown to be a woman,

Tall and noble but with face and bosom

Delicate in colour as apple blossom.

This beauty’s kinder, yet for a reason

I could weep that the old is out of season.

Human Dignity

Like the moon her kindness is,

If kindness I may call

What has no comprehension in’t,

But is the same for all

As though my sorrow were a scene

Upon a painted wall.

So like a bit of stone I lie

Under a broken tree.

I could recover if I shrieked

My heart’s agony

To passing bird, but I am dumb

From human dignity.

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 his his face amid a crowd of stars.

For your further enjoyment, The Guardian asked several writers to select their favourite love poems. Check it out at:


5 Responses to “Yeats and I, we go a roving.”

  1. Anne Clements February 15, 2012 at 8:00 am #

    Like your choices and thanks for the Guardian link. Have just been checking it out and there are some lovely poems. My favourite at the moment is Carol Ann Duffy’s poem ‘Valentine’ which has the lines:
    ‘I give you an onion
    It is a moon wrapped in brown paper
    It promises light
    like the careful undressing of love’

  2. literaryagent007 February 15, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    Anne, yes, there are certainly some amazing poems on there! I am going to go and read Duffy’s poem straight away. I also really enjoyed ‘Animals’ by Frank O’Hara.

  3. 30 Ways of Walking February 27, 2012 at 1:04 am #

    I love the poem When You Are Old, it has always been one of my favorites. Are you familiar with Jane Kenyon’s “Otherwise”? The poems exchanged between Kenyon and Hall are some of my all time faves. Their love for each other through both Hall’s and later, Kenyon’s, struggles with Cancer is truly inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

  4. literaryagent007 February 27, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    Thanks for your comment! When You Are Old is one of my favourites as well. I am not familiar with Jane Kenyon’s poetry, nor the poems exchanged between Kenyon and Hall but am now going to remedy that. Thank you for letting me know.

  5. Jane Dougherty November 11, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    In a more recent post you mention the emotion that wells up reading fictional tragedies. You only have to mention heaven’s embroidered cloths, or lake isles or nodding by the fire and I weep like a fountain. Anyone who loves Yeats is a kindred spirit—I’m querying you today!

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