In the poems “ A Time Past” by Denise Levertov and “When You Are Old” by William Butler Yeats both emphasize the memory of formal lovers. Levertov chooses to reminisce about the beautiful moments of the ended relationship and Yeats creates an anonymous speaker that requests of a former lover to remember her youth and his love for her, creating a surreal sense of mystery that only reveals some shadows of his own past love life. In the poems “A Time Past” and “When You Are Old” both use powerful imagery, symbolism, tone in “A Times Past” and the diction levels in “When You Are Old” to create two different views of former lovers.
In the poem “When You Are Old” Yeats' diction changes as the poem progresses from stanza to stanza. In his opening, he instructs an "old and gray" woman "full of sleep" to "slowly read" a book of memories from her youth. She is comfortable and lazy in her age, now living out her days sleeping. These words soothe and ease the reader into a likewise comfortable state to better their understanding of his intention, which becomes clear later in the poem. As he moves to the second stanza, Yeats reminds his former lover of her "glad grace" that was loved by many in contrast to the "sorrows of [her] changing face" in her "pilgrim soul." Which was loved by many as a happy and beautiful person, the aged woman is asked to recall the only man that loved her for who she was. Moving on, he speaks of more and more vague memories that become a mere haze of thought when describing what eventually happened over time. The once warm and reminiscent old woman is reminded of an eerie and faded love that was never brought to resolution, a faded love that may indicate a hidden feeling of remorse from the narrator. Yeats' diction and detail have similar effects-forcing the reader from their comfort to a chilled state of mind. As the woman is "nodding by the fire," she turns through the book and recollects times of her "soft [looks]" and "sorrows" as she...
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