Can you define love? Love is "an intense feeling or deep affection" or as "a person or thing that one loves." Love can be described in many different ways and also written in different ways depending on the writer thoughts or feelings. In poetry, love is the theme of a poem, which is a common use of a device for all poetry. This method allows us a sense of the speaker perception while writing these poems. In the poems "When You Are Old" and "The Song of the Old Mother" by William Butler Yeats, Yeats uses love differently by showing it from a man's view and a mother's view. One poem discusses the love for his beloved who didn't show her love back to him. The other discusses the love for her children who were unappreciative by her efforts and work. Both poems though describe love as unconditional and passed up.
The speaker of "When You Are Old" reflects upon his unconditional love for a woman who was not ready for a serious relationship. He addresses his beloved with a book that will remind her of her teenage days and the love he had for her. In the first two lines, he pictures his beloved as "old and grey and full of sleep, and nodding by the fire, taking down this book." (WBY 1& 2) The image brought to mind is of a sleepy old woman by a fireplace, reading a book that was given by him. The phrase "full of sleep" suggests she's weariness, at peace and close to death. As we move forth into the poem, we can see where the speaker specifies the love for his beloved as he goes into details. In lines seven and eight, the speaker mentions himself where he says, "But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face." (WBY 7 & 8) Yeats depicts her soul as a "pilgrim", constantly moving and free minded. He also admired "the sorrows of" her "changing face," which means her transition from young to old.