Many of us went through a period of youthful infatuation with the poems of the younger Yeats. And though the years have taught us a few things (as they taught Yeats), the poems are redolent of the time when I first read them. They can still make the heart skip a beat -- for the poem itself and for what it brings back.
William Jay, "At the Fall of Leaf, Arundel Park, Sussex" (1883)
The Falling of the Leaves
Autumn is over the long leaves that love us,
And over the mice in the barley sheaves;
Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,
And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.
The hour of the waning of love has beset us,
And weary and worn are our sad souls now;
Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us,
With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.
W. B. Yeats, The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (1889).
Alexander Docharty, "An Autumn Day" (c. 1917)
'Your eyes that once were never weary of mine
Are bowed in sorrow under pendulous lids,
Because our love is waning.'
And then she:
'Although our love is waning, let us stand
By the lone border of the lake once more,
Together in that hour of gentleness
When the poor tired child, Passion, falls asleep:
How far away the stars seem, and how far
Is our first kiss, and ah, how old my heart!'
Pensive they paced along the faded leaves,
While slowly he whose hand held hers replied:
'Passion has often worn our wandering hearts.'
The woods were round them, and the yellow leaves
Fell like faint meteors in the gloom, and once
A rabbit old and lame limped down the path;
Autumn was over him: and now they stood
On the lone border of the lake once more:
Turning, he saw that she had thrust dead leaves
Gathered in silence, dewy as her eyes,
In bosom and hair.
'Ah, do not mourn,' he said,
'That we are tired, for other loves await us;
Hate on and love through unrepining hours.
Before us lies eternity; our souls
Are love, and a continual farewell.'
W. B. Yeats, Ibid.
Well, well. Whew. Sigh. There was a time when I had the whole thing by heart. It's a laundry list of youthful romantic melancholy, isn't it? "How far away the stars seem, and how far/Is our first kiss . . . Passion has often worn our wandering hearts . . . our souls/Are love, and a continual farewell." My favorite is: " . . . the yellow leaves/Fell like faint meteors in the gloom."
Thomas Hardy certainly got it right in the closing stanza of "I Look Into My Glass":
But Time, to make me grieve,
Part steals, lets part abide;
And shakes this fragile frame at eve
With throbbings of noontide.
Or, as a troubadour was newly singing in those long ago days when I was immersed in Yeats: "Either I'm too sensitive or else I'm getting soft." Another heartbreaking ode on the same theme:
Sundown, yellow moon, I replay the past.
I know every scene by heart, they all went by so fast.
John Milne Donald, "Autumn Leaves" (1864)