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An anonymous narrator of Yeats’s poem “When You Are Old” tells a woman and a former lover to remember her past love life and her youth. The woman “full of sleep” is advised by the narrator to read a book about the memories from her youth. The root of the poem is love that Yeats capitalizes and personifies that concept.
Poem’s progress is changed by diction from stanza to stanza. The poem tells about a woman the narrator was in love with, but she rejected him after he proposed to her occasionally. The woman’s face “full of sleep” gives the writer of the poem the attitude that the woman is nearing death in her old age. The speaker reveals that he loved her, not because of her beauty but because of her personality. The line in the poem, “...and loved the sorrows of your changing face” conveys the love of the speaker to the woman that was eternal in nature.
The last stanza in the poem has a tone that can be described to be bitter and sweet at the same time. The attitude of the speaker toward the woman in the last stanza is the hope and wish that she would regret because of rejecting his love for her. This is after the woman reads the book and reflects her past.
The speaker describes the woman as being contented and lazy in her old age. The woman is dozing idly. The tone and imagery of the woman in the first stanza gives readers an understanding of the speaker’s intention in the poem; the speaker wants to remind the lady about her “glad grace” and her young, beautiful face when she was loved by many. The narrator has the attitude that the woman was foolish that she never noticed his love for her but allowed it to fade.
The speaker in the poem brings forth images of togetherness and warmth. Despite the economy, of few words and symbols, the poem is comprehensive, and the attitude of the speaker to the woman is that of togetherness. The love for her even in her old age shows the speaker wants to remain together with the woman eternally and in an endless time.
The speaker has the attitude that the woman would stop ignoring him and making wrong decisions. Despite the poem having a sad tone, it is not designed to make the woman regretful. The speaker hopes that the woman would reconsider her future. This, in return, will make her take his love rather than growing older without having the speaker by her side.