There are certain poets who have the gift of creating that one line around which an immortal poem circles and without which it would be just an ordinary poem. Of all poets, Yeats is the master of this. Of course, Yeats is the master of many aspects of writing poetry. I often wonder why God didn’t select Yeats to write the Bible. I mean no sacrilege here…I just love Yeats that much!
One of the most beautiful lines ever written comes from the hand of Yeats in his poem “When You are Old and Gray.” Without this one line, the poem teeters too closely upon sentimentality. With it, the poem is timeless, fresh, brilliant.
Here is the line: But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you
Wow. Does that not capture the way every woman wants to be loved? That one line, writ by W.B., summarizes the best love stories ever written. It is the whole world in one line. It catapults the poem off the page and into my heart. It’s also perfect iambic pentameter. It’s perfect.
Go find the poem and read it. Again and again. Reading Yeats makes me want to hang it up as a writer because I will never achieve such brilliance, but at the same time Yeats opens the lungs of my soul. Is there a better reason to be alive than you can read Yeats?