When you are old – Last Portfolio

In the last term of the year, in our literature classes, we worked on poetry. First, in pairs, each of us would choose a poem to analyze.After, individually, you had to choose one poem (that could not be the one you analyzed) to make an essay.To write the essay, I choose the poem “When you are old” by W.B. Yeats. In this one, the way the journey to old age is described had to be analysed. The essay question was: “Comment closely on how the journey from youth to old age is portrayed in the poem “When you are old” by W.B. Yeast”. To tackle this essay I decided to focus on two things. First the way old age is associated to suffering and loneliness, categorizing this phase of life as a negative one. And second, explain how your love life can determine in which phase of your life you are. In order to be able to do the essay, I had to make use of the previous analysis a group had done in the poem. This analysis had been done by Sol Santayana, Luz Esteban and Olivia Obligado. Once I had already made use of this information provided by the group, I was ready to start the essay. It didn’t result on a hard tasks because it was a topic I found interesting and was comfortable talking about. I had a lot ot say about what the author was trying to transmit and I made sure I could transfer all my thoughts and ideas into words. Finally, this is the essay I did:


The poem “When you are old”, published in 1893, deals with the passing of time and the consequences of one’s aging. The voice addresses to another person and tries to explain the complications of old age and deals with the concept of love during one’s life. I believe that in this poem, the journey from youth to old age is portrayed in two ways. First, it is shown as a sad and lonely place which worsens with the passing of time. Later, the speaker characterizes the period of life you are in with love. He explains how possibility of love and affection is linked to youth and how “when you are old” this one vanishes. Following I will deal with this two aspects and analyse them. 


On the one hand, the poem beginning with a link between aging and loneliness. The author portrays an image in which the adresse of this poem would have to picture him/herself in, in order to understand what life has to come. The speaker links the enjoyment of life to the addressee’s youth, as the poem argues that the addressee should make the most of the younger years she has still has left.This is why, in the first line of the first stanza the author uses the metaphor “full of sleep”. By the means of this phrase, Yeats is trying to relate being full of sleep with being close to death. Exactly because of this reason is that the adresse should learn how to appreciate the day to day and never be scared to do what one wants. Aging is a dark phase of life and once youth is gone, it is truly irretrievable. Yeast decides to portray the journey from youth to old age as a path to loose every good aspect you had once had in your life. Remembering of your youth is portrayed as a dream; “dream of the soft look your eyes had once”. Youth was the moment in which your eyes carried a soft look; little to worry and to  regret. Those good old days would seem way too far that instead of remembering, you would have to dream about them.   


On the other hand, W.B. Yeast characterizes a person’s youth in terms of how loved she is. The poem presents the idea that states youth is the phase of your life in which you have hundreds of possibilities of finding love. You are full of beauty and being lonely is not a problem nor preoccupation. However, later “love fled”; love is no longer an option. Who would want you when you are older? Who would want you when all you are is grey hair and an old face?. Moreover, the speaker clarifies the person his referring to and lets her clear how all those people who loved her may not be true.“Loved your beauty with love false or true, But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you”. In between all those “false” relationships and  those “false” proclamations of love, there may be one man; one who loved her not only for her looks but her soul, one who would have loved her even when her beauty faded as a consequence of old age. What the author is trying to portray is how the  journey from youth to old age can be measured by means of love. If you found yourself surrounded by many possibilities of love and future relationships you are probably in your young years. However, if you find yourself lonely and afraid of dying with no one by your side you are already on your old age. 


All in all, “When you are old” is a poem which portrays the journey from youth to aging by the means of love and as a path towards loneliness and lots of regrets. W.B Yeats uses his writing as a source to paint a pessimistic picture of old age, suggesting that it’s a time of reflection and regret, especially for those who in their young years focused only in shallow forms of love as they wont have someone by their side. It is up to us to believe in what he says or not. However, it’s always good and worthwhile to live at your fullests.


I decided to talk about this activity because it was a task that really got me to think and question things about my life. Am I really going to let old age be like that? Why should it be linked to suffering and loneliness? Why should it mean I am not going to have love anymore? I have never sat down and think how my journey towards old age is going to be. I am aware of the fact I still have a lot to live, but I know something for sure and is that I am not going to get depressed by the passing of time or think of the final phase of my life as a time to be haunted by my regrets or missing all the people I’ve lost during my life. I want to think of a positive side of old age. Thinking of it as a time to be delighted by everything I’ve accomplished during my life. I understand the reasons the author is giving to justify this thoughts of old age being compared to suffering and being alone. However,  I dont think it is always like this. Despite the fact you may change your attitude and try to celebrate old age, I think first you should realize that sometimes us humans tend to see the negative side only. This poem is helpful to see this. This text was able to make me realize I don’t want to choose living that way and that is why I wanted to dedicate the activity of writing this essay an entry of the portfolio.


Once I was writing the essay about this poem, I connected it with a song I know called “7 years” by Lukas Graham.This one tells the story of a man all throughout his 60 years of life. In this one I can see the journey from youth to old age to and that is why ir reminded me of the poem.



We can see how in all the phases of life loneliness is trying to be avoided or kept at bay. First, by finding friends, then a wife, then children, and finally grandchildren. This is the only way you avoid being alone by the time you are old; the only way of avoiding suffer. By the moment in the song the man reaches 60 years old some negative aspects of life start to appear. For example when it says “I hope my children come and visit once or twice a month” showing how although children may be helpful to prevent being alone, there’s a moment in life in which this is not completely trustworthy. Children mature, they move and you find yourself alone again. This is why then grandchildren are mentioned. They are seen as a way of preventing this depression too and of keeping the connection with those people which are the ones that truly know you.

 “Soon I’ll be sixty years old

Will I think the world is cold?

Or will I have a lot of children who can warm me?”

With this part of the lyrics we can again see how the man of the song is constantly trying to find a way in which all that loneliness is filled, in which the cold becomes warm and in which suffering fades away. As well as the poem shows an aspect of aging and I think of them being very similar.

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