Variations on a Theme

The first two are well-known, but I’m particularly (perversely?) fond of the third. I ran across it years ago in a four-volume edition of Belloc’s verse, and have been looking for it ever since. The weblogger who calls herself The Rat recently quoted the second poem, which reminded me to look for the third once again. I was delighted to find that it has finally turned up on the web, though I don’t much care for the I Love Poetry site where I found it (too cutesy for my taste, even if the snuggly polar bears would make an excellent wedding card for one particular blogger):

I. Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585), from Sonnets pour Hélène:

Quand vous serez bien vieille, au soir, à la chandelle,
Assise aupres du feu, devidant et filant,
Direz, chantant mes vers, en vous esmerveillant:
Ronsard me celebroit du temps que j’estois belle.

Lors, vous n’aurez servante oyant telle nouvelle,
Desja sous le labeur à demy sommeillant,
Qui au bruit de mon nom ne s’aille resveillant,
Benissant vostre nom de louange immortelle.

Je seray sous la terre et fantaume sans os:
Par les ombres myrteux je prendray mon repos:
Vous serez au fouyer une vieille accroupie,

Regrettant mon amour et vostre fier desdain.
Vivez, si m’en croyez, n’attendez à demain:
Cueillez d´s aujourd’huy les roses de la vie.

If you can’t handle 16th-century French, there are English translations here (Humbert Wolfe) and here (Anthony Weir — scroll down past the Albanian stuff).

II. William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), “When you are old”:

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 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 among a crowd of stars.

III. Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), “The Fragment”:

Towards the evening of her splendid day
Those who are little children now shall say
(Finding this verse), ‘Who wrote it, Juliet?’
And Juliet answer gently, ‘I forget.’

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One Response to Variations on a Theme

  1. Rob says:

    There is another part to this poem, I think:How did the party go in Portman Square?
    I cannot tell you: Juliet was not there.

    And how did Lady Gaster’s party go?
    Juliet was next to me and I do not know.

    and I wondered if you knew if it was part of a longer poem?

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