Three Songs to Poems of W. B. Yeats

Song Cycle by Graham Whettam (b. 1927)

?. A dream of death [sung text not yet checked]

I dreamed that one had died in a strange place
  Near no accustomed hand;
And they had nailed the boards above her face,
  The peasants of that land,
And, wond'ring, planted by her solitude
  A cypress and a yew:
I came, and wrote upon a cross of wood,
  Man had no more to do:
"She was more beautiful than thy first love,
  This lady by the trees:"
And gazed upon the mournful stars above,
  And heard the mournful breeze.

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , "Une épitaphe", copyright © 2011, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

First published in National Observer, December 1891, revised 1895

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

?. A cradle song [sung text not yet checked]

The angels are [stooping]1, above your bed;
They weary of trooping with the whimpering dead.
God's laughing in heaven to see you so good;
The [Shining]2 Seven are gay with His mood.
[I kiss you and kiss you, my pigeon my own.
Ah how I shall miss you when you have grown.]3

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Ferdinando Albeggiani) , "Una ninna nanna", copyright © 2012, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

View original text (without footnotes)
First published in Scots Observer, April 1890; revised 1901
1 Grill: "singing"
2 Ebel, Grill: "Sailing"
3 Ebel: "I sigh that kiss you, for I must own/ That I shall miss you when you have grown."; Grill: "I sigh that kiss you, for I must own/ That I shall miss you when you have gone."

Research team for this text: Ted Perry , Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]

?. When you are old [sung text not yet checked]

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]1 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]2
And paced upon the mountains overhead 
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Authorship:

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • GER German (Deutsch) [singable] (Walter A. Aue) , "Wenn Du alt bist", copyright © 2010, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • HUN Hungarian (Magyar) (Tamás Rédey) , copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Ferdinando Albeggiani) , "Quando ormai sarai vecchia, e grigia e sonnolenta", copyright © 2008, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

View original text (without footnotes)

Confirmed with The Poetical Works of William B. Yeats in two volumes, volume 1 : Lyrical Poems, The Macmillan Company, New York and London, 1906, page 179. Note: this poem is often described as a free adaptation of Ronsard's Quand vous serez bien vieille.

1 Bachlund: "and"
2 Venables: "hath fled"

Researcher for this text: Garth Baxter
Total word count: 231