I went to a literary festival last week and took part in a flash fiction workshop, in which you had to write a story under 250 words. My story was titled “The Pilgrim Soul in Her,” and I was feeling pretty smuggish-proud of myself, having come up with that clever title, because it’s a line lifted from the below poem by Mr. Yeats and I thought that most in the room (writers all) would recognize it. But nope. Nary a one did. This raised a silent hue and cry inside me, along the lines of Bring Back Yeats, so here you go.
When You Are Old
– William Butler Yeats
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.
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Thanks for the reminder. Yeats, and this poem among many others were favorites of my mother who’d memorized reams of verse. Educated pre-war so that whole Yeats/Pound/Eliot/Auden/Woolf etc. English lit school which now more and more seems quaint, as if magnetized towards the 19th cent. Thanks though for the reminder.