The Poetry of Aging

The Poetry of Aging
August 27, 2022

What is The Poetry of Aging?

The Poetry of Aging is the way of life here at Sonnet Hill. Every poem has its uniqueness, and so does each person. No one should tell you the right our wrong way to be your true self. Believing in the Poetry of Aging is believing in yourself, your own style, pace, and personality. We all share common needs such as, safety, food, water, shelter, and health. As we learn more about the elements of aging, research shows people have dynamic needs that can change each day, month, or year. Remember, every human is their own one-of-a-kind poem. Regardless of style, each one is perfect in their own way. That’s The Poetry of Aging.

It’s a scarce site to find a poet that grows old and doesn’t write about it. Many poets equate aging with losing – losing vitality, strength, love, ambition, and good health.

William Butler Yeats paints a regretful view of old age in his poem “When You Are Old”

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;

Another poet, Lord Alfred Tennyson writes about the topic of old age with a spirit of irony in his poem “Tithanus,” where the goddess Eos forgets to add eternal youth to her request to Zeus to grant immortality to a mortal named Tithanus. So Zeus grants immortality to Tithanus, but curses him to a eternal prison of old age.

Twelfth-century Chinese poet, Lu Yu, takes a more delicate light spirited approach in his poem “Written in a Carefree Mood”:

Old man pushing seventy,
In truth he acts like a little boy,
Whooping with delight when he spies some mountain fruits,
Laughing with joy, tagging after village mummers;
With the others having fun stacking tiles to make a pagoda,
Standing alone staring at his image in the jardinière pool.
Tucked under his arm, a battered book to read,
Just like the time he first set out to school.

What is the message of the Poem on Aging by Maya Angelo

Maya Angelou’s wrote a poem titled “On Aging,” beckoning youth to treat old people respect and understanding. On Aging was originally published when Angelo turned 50 in the year 1978. The poem can be found in the collection And Still I Rise. You can also read the poem here or at the link below (https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/on-aging-2/) “On Aging” battles the stereotypes young people have of seniors – things like seeing the elderly as helpless, lonely, and worth of pity. Angelo uses straight to the point humor to get her point across, reminding readers of her own vitality.
Read the full text of “On Aging” (https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/on-aging-2/)

What Does Old Age Mean?

Old age refers to the age when a person nears or surpasses the average human life expectancy. Thus old age also implies the end of human life expectancy

Though many poems on aging communicate a sense of longing to bring back their youth or for readers to feel bad for their aging bodies, we believe aging is to be celebrated and so much to offer.

Here are Several Great Poems about Aging

If you want more poems on aging, Poets.org offers a list here (https://poets.org/text/poems-about-aging) We’ve also added the list below.

Consider these poems in your quest to better understand and embrace the Poetry of Aging

  • “In View of the Fact” by A. R. Ammons
  • “Growing Old” by Mathew Arnold
  • “Forgetfulness” by Billy Collins
  • “Age” by Robert Creeley
  • “Terminus” by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “An Old Man’s Winter Night” by Robert Frost
  • “Affirmation” by Donald Hall
  • “I Look into My Glass” by Thomas Hardy
  • “First Gestures” by Julia Kasdorf
  • “Touch Me” by Stanley Kunitz
  • “Nature” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • “Late Ripeness” by Czeslaw Milosz
  • “Hail and Farewell” by Charles Reznikoff
  • “Tired with All These, For Restful Death I Cry” by William Shakespeare
  • “Like as the Waves Make Toward the Pebbled Shore” by William Shakespeare
  • “Young men dancing, and the old” by Thomas Stanley
  • “Tithonus” by Lord Alfred Tennyson
  • “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas
  • “The Descent” by William Carlos Williams
  • “Lines On Retirement, After Reading Lear” by David Wright
  • “When You Are Old” by William Butler Yeats
  • “Sailing to Byzantium” by William Butler Yeats
  • “Written In a Carefree Mood” by Lu Yu
  • “Warning” by Jenny Joseph

Forgetfulness
By Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusions, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decide to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue
or even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall

well on your way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Read More Here – https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/37695/forgetfulness

Good Bones
By Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Read More Here – https://poets.org/poem/good-bones

Mrs Baldwin
By Fleur Adcock

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.

We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Read More – https://www.ba-bamail.com/content.aspx?emailid=27310a

Youth and Age
By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Verse, a breeze mid blossoms straying,
Where hope clung feeding, like a bee—
Both were mine! Life went a-maying
With Nature, Hope, and Poesy,
When I was young!
When I was young?—Ah, woful When!
Ah! for the change ’twixt Now and Then!
This breathing house not built with hands,
This body that does me grievous wrong,
O’er aery cliffs and glittering sands,
How lightly then it flashed along:—
Like those trim skiffs, unknown of yore,
On winding lakes and rivers wide,
That ask no aid of sail or oar,
That fear no spite of wind or tide!
Nought cared this body for wind or weather
When Youth and I lived in’t together.

Flowers are lovely; Love is flower-like;
Friendship is a sheltering tree;
O! the joys, that came down shower-like,
Of Friendship, Love, and Liberty,
Ere I was old!

Ere I was old? Ah woful Ere,
Which tells me, Youth’s no longer here!
O Youth! for years so many and sweet,
’Tis known, that Thou and I were one,
I’ll think it but a fond conceit—
It cannot be that Thou art gone!

Thy vesper-bell hath not yet toll’d:—
And thou wert aye a masker bold!
What strange disguise hast now put on,
To make believe, that thou are gone?
I see these locks in silvery slips,
This drooping gait, this altered size:
But Spring-tide blossoms on thy lips,
And tears take sunshine from thine eyes!
Life is but thought: so think I will
That Youth and I are house-mates still.

Dew-drops are the gems of morning,
But the tears of mournful eve!
Where no hope is, life’s a warning
That only serves to make us grieve,
When we are old:
That only serves to make us grieve
With oft and tedious taking-leave,
Like some poor nigh-related guest,
That may not rudely be dismist;
Yet hath outstay’d his welcome while,
And tells the jest without the smile.

Read More – https://www.ba-bamail.com/content.aspx?emailid=27310

Do not go gentle into that good night
By Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Read More – https://poets.org/poem/do-not-go-gentle-good-night

 

Growing Old
By Robert William Service

Somehow the skies don’t seem so blue
As they used to be;
Blossoms have a fainter hue,
Grass less green I see.
There’s no twinkle in a star,
Dawns don’t seem so gold . . .
Yet, of course, I know they are:
Guess I’m growing old.

Somehow sunshine seems less bright,
Birds less gladly sing;
Moons don’t thrill me with delight,
There’s no kick in Spring.
Hills are steeper now and I’m
Sensitive to cold;
Lines are not so keen to rhyme . . .
Gosh! I’m growing old.

Yet in spite of failing things
I’ve no cause to grieve;
Age with all its ailing brings
Blessings, I believe:
Kindo’ gentles up the mind
As the hope we hold
That with loving we will find
Friendliness in human kind,
Grace in growing old.

Read More – https://www.poemhunter.com/poems/growing-old/page-1/107205/

 

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