Those dancing days are gone

I can see three ideas in this poem by W.B. Yeats that could have attracted Carla Bruni to it.  Firstly, Yeats uses as his metaphor for youth “those dancing days” and Carla in her songs illustrates the vivacity and freedom of youth with the image of dance.  Secondly this youth is gone and Carla has frequently the sense that these precious years are too quickly stolen away.  Thirdly, the age-old idea that the poet has a gift that is resistant to time and can sing on forever, might have given her reassurance.


Nevertheless, according to my reading, this is a very brutal poem, totally at variance with Carla Bruni’s sensitive and sympathetic nature.  The poet insists on telling some frank truths to an old woman, whom he had known resplendent in her youth.   He now brutally describes her as a foul body in a foul rag.  He himself is old and needs a stick but that does not make him foul. This dissociation would  seem to reveal bitter malice on the part of the poet, as the experience of an old person on seeing a contemporary who has been close, is to see them in the continuity of their shared lives, preserved by memory.  The explanation appears to be that his memory was narrowed by vindictiveness.  Evidently the pleasure that such a beautiful woman could offer to a man, she gave to someone else, whom he dismisses as a knave.  The poet has the satisfaction of giving her the cruel reminder, although she needs none, that this husband is now dead and buried, as are their children, the fruits of this love.  His degradation of the sad old lady contrasts with his egoistical self-exaltation, based on the golden gift of poetry which he possesses, which gives the old man an immortality, unlike the others who are very dead.


I read that there are many different interpretations to this poem.  My own leads me to the verdict that this is one of the most unpleasant poems that I have ever read.




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Come, let me sing into your ear;

Those dancing days are gone,

All that silk and satin gear;

Crouch upon a stone,

Wrapping that foul body up

In as foul a rag:

I carry the sun in a golden cup.

The moon in a silver bag.


Curse as you may I sing it through;

What matter if the knave

That the most could pleasure you,

The children that he gave,

Are somewhere sleeping like a top

Under a marble flag?

I carry the sun in a golden cup.

The moon in a silver bag.


I thought it out this very day.

Noon upon the clock,

A man may put pretence away

Who leans upon a stick,

May sing, and sing until he drop,

Whether to maid or hag:

I carry the sun in a golden cup,

The moon in a silver bag.