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by William Butler Yeats (1865 - 1939)
Translation © by Pierre Mathé

When you are old and gray and full of...
Language: English 
Available translation(s): FRE GER HUN ITA
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
And paced upon the mountains overhead 
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

G. Bachlund sets stanzas 1-2
F. Bridge sets stanzas 1-2

About the headline (FAQ)

View original text (without footnotes)
Note: this poem is often described as a free adaptation of Ronsard's Quand vous serez bien vieille.

1 Bachlund: "and"

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.


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive):

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

Researcher for this text: Garth Baxter

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 12
Word count: 100

Quand vous serez vieille et grise et...
Language: French (Français)  after the English 
Quand vous serez vieille et grise et pleine de sommeil,
Et dodelinerez près du feu, prenez ce livre,
Et lisez lentement, et rêvez au regard doux
Qu'avaient jadis vos yeux, et à leur ombre profonde ;

Combien ont aimé vos moments de grâce bienheureuse,
Et aimèrent votre beauté, d'un amour vrai [ou]1 feint,
Mais un seul homme a aimé en vous l'âme voyageuse,
Et aimé la tristesse sur votre visage changeant ;

Et inclinée vers la grille rougeoyante,
Murmurez, un peu triste, comment l'amour a fui
Et a enjambé les montagnes au-dessus de nos têtes
Et caché son visage parmi une multitude d'étoiles.

About the headline (FAQ)

View original text (without footnotes)
1 Bachlund: "et"


  • Translation from English to French (Français) copyright © 2016 by Pierre Mathé, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.

Based on:


This text was added to the website: 2016-01-04
Line count: 12
Word count: 103