Broken Dreams W.B. Yeats Written 1915. Published in‘The Wild Swans at Coole’ (1919)
There is grey in your hair.Young men no longer suddenly catch their breathWhen you are passing;But maybe some old gaffer mutters a blessingBecause it was your prayerRecovered him upon the bed of death.For your sole sake - that all hearts ache have known,And given to others all hearts ache,From meagre girlhoods putting onBurdensome beauty - for your sole sake 10Heaven has put away the stroke of her doom,So great her portion in that peace you makeBy merely walking in a room.
Your beauty can but leave among usVague memories, nothing but memories.A young man when the old men are done talkingWill say to an old man, "Tell me of that ladyThe poet stubborn with his passion sang usWhen age might well have chilled his blood.‘Vague memories, nothing but memories, 20But in the grave all, all, shall be renewed.The certainty that I shall see that ladyLeaning or standing or walkingIn the first loveliness of womanhood,And with the fervour of my youthful eyes,Has set me muttering like a fool.In rambling talk with an image of air:Vague memories, nothing but memories
You are more beautiful than any one,And yet your body had a flaw:Your small hands were not beautiful,And I am afraid that you will run 30And paddle to the wristIn that mysterious, always brimming lakeWhere those What have obeyed the holy lawpaddle and are perfect. Leave unchangedThe hands that I have kissed,For old sakes sake.The last stroke of midnight dies.All day in the one chairFrom dream to dream and rhyme to rhyme I have rangedIn rambling talk with an image of air: 40Vague memories, nothing but memories
When You Are Old (1893)When you are old and gray and full of sleep,And nodding by the fire, take down this book,And slowly read, and dream of the soft lookYour 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 fledAnd paced upon the mountains overheadAnd hid his face among a crowd of stars.
Yeats’s MuseThe poem is very clearly about Maud Gonne and hischanging relationship with her. She was 49, Yeats 50,when this was written.The other poems you’ve studied or will study that linkdirectly to Maud are:Aedh wishes for the Cloths of Heaven;The Wild Swans at Coole;Broken Dreams;When you Are Old;Leda and the Swan;Among Schoolchildren.You’ll need to be confident you can connect these poems,unseen, in the exam, not only to Maud, but to the widerthemes and ideas Yeats is attempting to present.Out of interest, what do you think they are?
Is this poem a lament? A celebration? Or a reaffirmation? In 1903 Maud Gonne married John MacBride ending Yeats’s hopes of marrying her. his poetry also changed and this poem reflects the newer realism as opposed to the ‘old high way of love’ (from ‘Adam’s Curse’ (1903)) from before. How does this support Yeats belief in the importance of ‘self- quarrelling that results in poetry.?’ WB Yeats ‘Anima Hominis’ (1918) ‘The elegaic feeling is strong here, but also we sense the poet briefly doubting his own faith in an afterlife.’ Greening (2005)Q. Write a short paragraph explaining how each of these quotes relate or helpcontextualise your understanding of the poem ‘Broken Dreams’.