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Lilt: a theory of melody

A melody has to catch the ear. A lilt is an up and down movement that has to be asymmetrical or surprising in some way. It can go up, and ...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

7. When you are old and gray and full of sleep and nodding by the fire take down this book and slowly read and dream ...

This poem by Yeats is also easy to memorize. I probably learned it 18 years ago. It is based on another by Ronsard:

Quand vous serez bien vieille, au soir, à la chandelle,
Assise auprès du feu, dévidant et filant,
Direz, chantant mes vers, en vous émerveillant :
Ronsard me célébrait du temps que j’étais belle.

Lors, vous n’aurez servante oyant telle nouvelle,
Déjà sous le labeur à demi sommeillant,
Qui au bruit de mon nom ne s’aille réveillant,
Bénissant votre nom de louange immortelle.

Je serai sous la terre et fantôme sans os :
Par les ombres myrteux je prendrai mon repos :
Vous serez au foyer une vieille accroupie,

Regrettant mon amour et votre fier dédain.
Vivez, si m’en croyez, n’attendez à demain :
Cueillez dès aujourd’hui les roses de la vie.

1 comment:

Vance Maverick said...

Much as I love Yeats and enjoy these lines, I'm not sure I can sign on with this iteration of the trope. The "one man", likely the speaker, loved the object better than anyone else, even better than she herself did (that is, even she is assumed to care more for her soft look than her pilgrim soul). And the loss of his love is turned not, as with Ronsard, into the usual plea (now let us sport us while we may), but into a kind of triumph -- "look how I was assumed into Heaven through your insensitivity to my love."