I’m looking for the face I had

Two poems from the famous Irish poet, Yeats (rhymes with crates). He had a pretty fascinating life–you should look it up. I would give you a taste but I’m not quite in the blogging mood tonight. The line “But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you” has always moved me; I don’t know what it is about the idea of a pilgrim soul that really gets to me. But it does.

“Before the World Was Made”

If I make the lashes dark
And the eyes more bright
And the lips more scarlet,
Or ask if all be right
From mirror after mirror,
No vanity’s displayed:
I’m looking for the face I had
Before the world was made.

What if I look upon a man
As though on my beloved,
And my blood be cold the while
And my heart unmoved?
Why should he think me cruel
Or that he is betrayed?
I’d have him love the thing that was
Before the world was made.

“When You Are Old”

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.


One thought on “I’m looking for the face I had

  1. The idea of a pilgrim soul always strikes me as something uplifting, inspirational, and more than a little tragic. The strong, independent spirit that I admire is always, always entwined with a certain pitiable kind of detached holiness – a holiness that I want to see manifested somewhere in some remote monastic corner of the world but not in myself or in those whom I care about.

    This starkly illuminating idea is, unfortunately, not original to me but rather to a noted scholar of religion. Unfortunately, my computer crashed before I could reveal his name.

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