Maud Gonne’s reply

When I am old and grey, how will I sleep?
I won’t nod by the fire, I will stride forth
In the sleet and the rain, looking north,
Looking south, looking west, looking east –

For those who love me know I am wild,
I will not be trammeled by love,
I will be free as the skylark singing above,
My old frame will hold the heart of a child

So why should I sleep when the grave calls me to it?
There is time enough for sleeping then;
And this love of yours, that drips from your pen
Was always a cage, and I always flew from it.


Of course we all know that Yeats was a great love poet, and “When you are old” is probably one of his best known poems. If you don’t know it, what are you doing reading my stuff? Go and read some Yeats and come back later. Jilly  is hosting at the dVerse bar, and asks us to write a poem in answer to another poem. I’ve just bought a book called The Emergency Poet, by Deborah Alma, and low and behold, there was William Butler, in all his glory. I always felt a bit sorry for Maud Gonne. She couldn’t help it…this is her reply. Special apologies to Jane Dougherty…


35 thoughts on “Maud Gonne’s reply

  1. I have not read that Yeats poems in years – thank you for taking me there! The wildness of your response poem is ferel and earthy – I love it! “I will not be trammeled by love” What a line! So glad you have joined in with your unique voice, Sarah!


  2. One of many favourites by Yeats, Sarah, and I also have a lot of sympathy with Maud! I love that you have made her a strider in the sleet and rain, and that she won’t be ‘trammeled by love’,


  3. “And this love of yours, that drips from your pen
    Was always a cage, and I always flew from it.”

    This rings oh so true. The happy ending, happily ever is seldom either. You reached into another and pulled out living blood as words.


  4. A very strong and unabashed poem. I like that she is determined to live while she is living for death will be the time to sleep. Perhaps poetry is the cage that captures the heart of the wild one.


  5. How odd, this is exactly the same as the weekend challenge I will post tomorrow at Real Toads … well, the idea certainly isn’t original, what is poetry but singing back to someone else in a relatively empty room? … It’s always great to take up the seat of the other another poet sang to — Maud would have been a tough lover for Yeats, for sure, and would have left overnight taking the Irish Renaissance with her. Saying it and living it are shores of an ocean, for sure: and literature has always thrived on characters who refused to stay on the page. What did Yeats know of love, trapping it in ink? Great reply to him. #MaudToo …


  6. That was my first read of Yeats’ poem, and I was so saddened by his unrequited love and how even when he was on the mountain and among the stars he was hiding his face and pacing. But then your response shows how oppressive it must have been for her to be constantly pressured when she just wasn’t interested. The tone of your poem captures her free-spiritedness and contrasts it with his which is dour by comparison. Nicely done!


  7. this Sarah is my most favourite poem of all. I read it when I was 16 and fell in love with Yeats because he wrote the emotions I felt so deeply. I so relate to his love for Maud and moan her indifference and your poem echoed her personality so very acutely. I salute your style that mirrors his, this poet of my heart. I almost chose this poem but glad I didn’t for you have done an excellent response.


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