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Chapter: WHEN YOU ARE OLD | JKBOSE Class 10th English Notes

Chapter: WHEN YOU ARE OLD | JKBOSE Class 10th English Notes |


Man is mortal and so are the physical charms and worldly graces. But the true love is ever youthful and stays with you even after death. This is the theme around which the whole poem revolves. This poem truly manifests the intense emotions of the poet for his beloved. 


1. The poet takes his beloved to a journey into future and visualizes a time when she‟ll be old and feeble. Her hair will be grey and oldage will render her worthless. Having nothing to do, she‟ll laze all the time and warm herself near the hearth in winters. This is the time, when the poet suggests her to take up his collection of poems and give a careful reading to the same. It is only after a careful and deep reading of his poems, she‟ll get to know about the poet‟s genuine and consistent love for her. Since most of W.B yeats‟ poems are written about Maude Gonne and his poems will remind her about the days of her prime. She‟ll recall her gentle and charming looks. She‟ll also remember her profound, dark and attractive eyes which so many people liked. But Alas! Now they‟ll all be counted with the past. 

2. With the advent of ripe age comes the maturity and true understanding as Shakespeare has rightly said, “Repenss is all”. He tells Maud Gonne that she‟ll realize the importance of true quality of love in the later days of her life. He reminds her of the golden days of youth when a number of people loved her for her grace, gaiety, and charm. They loved her physical beauty. Their love for her could be true or false. But there can be no two opinions about the fact that among the crowd of lovers, only the poet loved her pure heart and not her body. He loved her for no other reason but love. He loved her holy and pure soul that had come to earth to undertake a very short but holy journey. He loved each and every expression of her face. In brief, he loved her pure and sacred heart unlike others who were after her physical charm. Yeats visuals a time when all the liveliness and youthful energy of his beloved will be vanished. At that very time, she‟ll contemplate about the nature of love. She‟ll sit lonely, and feel sad for not responding to the love of the poet. The poet has personified love who waited eagerly upon his beloved and when she didn‟t respond, his love flew high above the mountains and because of his purity changed into a divine star. The poet means to say that Maud Gonne‟ll repent only in her later age for having lost the most precious person in her life. He assures the lady that though his love remained unrequited during his lifetime, he‟ll continue to love her ever after his death. 

Central Idea: The poem “When you Are Old” is addressed to Maud Gonne (poet‟s beloved) who never responded to yeat‟s intense emotions. In this poem the poet dramatizes his unrequited love by offering a future command to his beloved to take down his book of poems and read it. The poet wants his beloved to read his poem after she has become „old and grey‟ and full of sleep. The poet in this poem leaves no stone unturned to make his beloved believe that he loves her from the depths of his heart. In this poem it becomes apparent that Yeats is not just fascinated by Maud Gonne‟s physical charms and external beauty but his love for her is above all these parameters. The poet wants to show to his beloved his pure and constant love. He wants to make his beloved realize that there had been many men who loved her beauty and youth but with the passing years, their love took wings and got lost. He (the poet) loved her soul irrespective of her age and looks.


Q.No.1. How is the journey from youth to old age described in the poem? 

Ans. The poet describes the period of youth as prised with physical charms, attractive eyes, pleasant feeling of love etc, while as it describes the old age in terms of grey hairs, drowsiness, sorrow, and desolation. 

Q.No.2. What does the phrase full of sleep mean? 

Ans. The phrase „ full of sleep‟ has a symbolic meaning which means old age. It indicates the natural drowsiness that comes in human beings as one grows old and approaches death. 

Q.No.3. How is the poet’s love different from those who also loved his beloved? 

Ans. The poet‟s love stands different from those of the other lovers. Others loved his beloved for her soft looks, charming eyes, and physical beauty. The poet loved his beloved for her pilgrim soul and inner beauty. His love was spiritual, while as others was sensual. 

Q.No.4. What is Maud Gonne reminded of in the poem? 

Ans. Maud Gonne is reminded of her youthful days when she was charming and energetic. She is also reminded of her only true love who would love her for her pilgrim soul. Others love was short-lived while as the poet‟s love was persistent. 

Q.No.5. ‘But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you’ Explain. 

Ans. The line describes that there was only one lover who loved Maud Gonne truly. He loved her for her inner beauty which did remain intact for the whole life. His love continued even when she becomes old and ugly while as those whose love was false distanced themselves when her physical charms lived its days. Write a paragraph on emotions portrayed in the poem? 

Ans. The writer possesses the best feelings of affection for his believed specifically Maud Gonne. But she never reacts his adoration. The poem „When You Are Old‟ is an outflow of his serious emotions. It hits our heart with feeling. The writer reminds his darling her energetic days when she was extremely lovely. She had alluring eyes and attractive hair. Many cherished her at that phase of life. But now she has been displayed as an old woman with grey hair and wrinkles all over. The writer turned into an extremely passionate and communicates her to recollect those occasions when she had an alluring body and was adored by numerous individuals. Some adored her with genuine notion while others cherished her physical body just. But there was one man namely the poet who had otherworldly sort of affection for her. This man cherishes her not in her energetic days but rather at each phase of her life. He adores her even when the distresses of old age mists her face and left their mark there. 

The love poem paints the image of vanishing youth, dying excellence, and momentary nature of false love. The feelings depicted in the lyric contacts a portion of our most profound and most serious sentiments. This poem is loaded with feeling and energy. Yeats utilizes the word love in all lines in the second stanza and in the third stanza, a second line he capitalizes this word giving it so much power. That exhibit by, in light of the fact that it fled over the mountains and covers up in a horde of stars. That adoration goes up and high like if it is expanding, inaccessible and unapproachable. 

It can also be seen as notwithstanding when he will be dead, his affection will be alive. Here, we see that he needs Gonne to know the size of his adoration for her. The creator exemplifies the affection in the lines “and paced upon the mountains overhead”, “and hid his face in the crowd of stars”. “Paced” appears to me like moving between various places without being steady and picking the correct thing or the perfect individual. We can also observe alliteration in the words “hid”, “his”. He sets up again the critical need that Maud picks him now. 

I also observe as though nature assumes an essential job in his approach to express how unadulterated his adoration was for her. The creator will, in general, utilize these components of nature in a considerable lot of his verse like in the ballad „The Lake Isle of Innisfree‟ (1898). I decipher the words “glowing bars” as the jail of adoration and figments or the excited obstructions to give and get love in light of the fact that the ideal opportunity for it will be left. This is found in the main line of the third stanza; “And bending down beside the glowing bars”. He‟s begging her affection, twisting down and adjacent to each hindrance, which are her adoration and the other men, to let her know he is perseverant and has an unrestricted love for Maud Gonne. Different pieces of information we found to achieve this end are that in the event that we set up together a few words that rhyme like “sleep” and “deep”, on the first stanza, we can see the picture of a dead individual. In the event that we do the same with words “grace”, “face”, on the second stanza, we envision and feel the magnificence; the same occurs when we set up together the words “true”and “you” on the second stanza as well, we can feel that it is the thing that he truly cherishes; the genuine you, the true self, Gonne‟s spirit. Also, at long last, in the event that we set up together the words “fled” and “overhead”, on the third stanza, we have the symbolism, the sentiment of something that has left. This all demonstrates Yeats is giving her the subliminal command inside the unmistakable and direct message to cherish him now, that he is the special case who truly adores her and to not give time a chance to stroll against their satisfaction.As we can find, Yeats unbelievably utilizes numerous components impeccable and harmoniously associated and concentrated into a short poem, for example, alliteration, immaculate metric, spondees, images and personification of affection to give her the correct message influencing to reach her change of mind and reciprocal love to him. 

When You Are Old 

Poetic Devices:

1. Symbolism: Yeats has used numerous images in the form of symbols: 

a)The rhyming couplet of “take down this book, and read, and dream of the soft look” makes use of a book as a symbol for reading someone‟s face. 

b)The use of phrases like „nodding by the fire' and eyes having “shadows deep” is symbolic of death and mortality when describing someone in their old age. 

c)“Gray and old and full of sleep”: It interprets an elderly woman. 

d)“Fire”: It interprets the warmth or comfort and the desire of an elderly woman for the fiery love she once rejected. e)“Mountains overhead” and “crowd of stars”: It interprets something that an elderly woman can always see and knows that its always there, but never fully reach to it. 

2. Imagery: 

a) Visual imagery: 

i)First imagery can be seen in 1st verse of 1st stanza,for example "when you are old and grey and full of sleep". The phrase full of sleep has the connotation of internal sensation that we can feel and imagine her tiredness at that time and when she will be approaching death. 

ii)“and loved the sorrow of your changing face” has the connotation of sight where a reader can imagine poet's beloved getting old and her beauty getting faded away. 

iii) Apart from all these examples, crowd of stars, mountains overhead, glowing bars are few of the other visual imageries that have been used in this poem. 

b) Kinesthetic imagery: 

i) "and nodding by the fire" phrase has the connotation of movement where a reader can imagine an old woman doing an action half asleep beside the fire place. 

ii)“Murmur a little sadly, how love fled” : Murmuring requires lip movement, so we can say kinesthetic imagery has been used. 

c) Organic imagery: 

It has been used throughout the poem as we get to know about the poet‟s feelings and emotions associated with his beloved Maudgonne. 

3. Personification: "Love fled”: As we know love is a feeling but it has been personified as the poet says that the 'love' fled high above the mountains. 


4. Alliteration: Few examples that substantiate alliteration in this poem are“glad grace” and “bending down beside”. 

5. Repetition: The words and, loved, of, your, how, the etc have been repeatedly used in the poem.

6. Anaphora: In this poem, the 2nd and 3rd verse of first stanza and the last two verses of the last stanza states that anaphora has been used as these consecutive verses begin with the same word “And. For example "And nodding by the fire, take down this book And slowly read: and dream of the soft look" "And paced upon the mountains overhead And hid his face amid a crowd of stars." 

7. Enjambment: It has been used throughout the poem as every line is associated with the other.

8. Euphemism: It refers to the use of inoffensive word or phrase instead of mean or unpleasant one. For example by „full of sleep' poet means when his beloved will be approaching death. Instead of using such an unpleasant phrase, he chose to use a phrase which isn't Insolent at all. 

9. Antithesis: The phrase „true and false' in the same verse indubitably befits as an example of antithesis. 

10. Metaphor: The poet has compared his 'love' to a„star‟ and tries to tell us that as stars are always there but are distant from us,hence, making it impossible for us to reach to them. 

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