The Lamentation of the Old Pensioner

Posted: July 13, 2013 in RKG sir notes class-12

The Lamentation of the Old Pensioner W.B.Yeats (1865-1939)


Now that I am an old man I protect myself from the rain under an old and broken
When I was young I sat near the fire with other young men and discussed love or
That was before I was changed by time.
While young boys are making weapons to attack the government,
and crazy, bad boys show their anger at human violence.
I think about how time has changed me.
No woman would look at an old man,
But I remember the women I have loved.
I spit into the face of time which has changed me.

Summary: This poem is about an old man who is remembering what he was like as a young man and how things are different now that he is old. He is unhappy because he has become old. He is angry with time for changing him.

Comprehension Questions
1. What is the meaning of the title of the poem?
2. What is the meaning of the line “ere Time transfigured me”?
3. What was he interested in as a young man? Love and politics. Many of his friends listened to him talk about love and politics.
4. What are the young men doing now? Fighting against govts; showing anger against bad human condition.
5. What is the poet thinking about? Thinking about Time that has changed him.
6. What does the speaker remember in the last stanza? Beautiful women of the yore/of the past.
7. Why does he “spit into the face of Time”? Irreversible changes it has brought about in his life.
8. What idea is repeated three times in the poem? Relentlessness of time; power of time to change man.

Essay Questions
1. Write a short story comparing old people to young people?
2. How do you think you will change when you get older?

Group Exercise
1. Make a list of things in the poem that show how the man was when he was young.
2. What do you think he was like as a young man?
3. Make a list of all the things that show how the man is now that he is old. How does the poet feel now that he is an old man?
Board Questions
1. Mention the three things the old man laments about. Why is he sad about them? (2059) Why does the old man want to “spit into the face of time”? (2058)
2. How and why does the old man lament? (2061)
3. What is the speaker lamenting on? (2062)
4. Why does the poet show his anger against time? (2065)
5. Explain the title of the poem “The Lamentation of the Old Pensioner”.
Some Vocabulary
Lamentation: regret/sadness; expression of grief| 2.ere: before| 3.transfigure: change| 4.pikes: long sticks that can be used as weapons|5. Rage: be angry 6.conspiracy: plan- in this case, plan to attack the government| 7.rage their fill: get as angry as possible|8.human tyranny: cruel government| 9. Contemplations: thoughts|10.Beauties: beautiful women.

The poem Lamentation of the Old Pensioner deals with the theme of time and the bitterness and resentment it can bring in a man’s life, specifically in old age (retirement from active life). Time changes everything including man’s life. Here the poet is lamenting the loss of his young days. This old age has been brought in by time, which marches forward unceasingly.

The poet has aged (become old) and now takes refuge under a tree (symbolically a precarious house), which is old. However, he remembers the days when his friends and well-wishers gathered around him to listen to him talk of politics and love. He seems to have enjoyed good position of influence as he says his chair ‘was nearest to the fire”. He probably was the center of attraction. Now, it’s no more the case because time has changed him.

The poet says that in his old age, young people are planning to fight governments who they think are working against the spirits of people. And there are other young crazy people who are very angry against human violence. But as far as the poet is concerned, he is fighting a losing battle against time which has changed him completely; the way of revolting in his time was quiet and different. He is no more interested in politics and movements of change as was the case in his young days.

The poet also expresses sadness over young beautiful women not looking at his old (wrinkled and ugly) face. He was probably a very romantic man. He now compares himself to a broken tree that is not noticed, cared and given importance. Even so, he has not forgotten (he still remembers them) each of the graceful women who he came across in his young days. His memories of them are fresh. He can do nothing to get back his lost youth hood and vigor. The enemy standing in his way is time so he rages against time by spitting into its face.

Some Analysis
The expression “ere time transfigured me” is used at the end of each stanza with some variation. This refrain (noun a repeated line or number of lines in a poem or song, typically at the end of each verse) helps us to understand the poet’s frustration and sustain the poet’s bitterness. Each time he laments of a certain loss (he laments about three things) he singles out time to have put him in this situation. It also helps to re-establish the atmosphere of his young days against his present sorrowful state. The final refrain is a climactic statement of the poet’s disturbed state. Thus, the refrain helps us to feel the deep anger the poet suffered at the hands of time. [Refrain: This refrain helps to establish the meter of the poem, indicates its tone, and re-establishes the atmosphere of the poem.]

The poet’s tone: By ‘tone’ one is referring to the attitude or point of view of the poet. In this poem, the tone is that of great anger. He is neither satisfied with his old age, nor has he accepted it quietly, but he is angry with his old age. And, he doesn’t seem to come to terms with this truth. He singles out time for having brought him to this bitter state of loneliness, frustration and negligence. Thus, he spits into the face of time.
Significance/Meaning of the title: The title signifies the extreme regret and disappointment felt by a retired old man. There was a time when he enjoyed good position among his friends and politicians. Also he secured the love of beautiful women, but those are past achievements and have no relevance to his lonely and neglected life of old age as he has none of them. Indeed, he has no one to take care of him.
Shifts in the subject matter: There are, altogether, three stanzas. Poet has made three shifts in the subject matter in three respective stanzas to show the comparison and contrast between his young and old age. The first stanza describes his favorable condition in politics and love. The second stanza describes how the angry young people behave today in contrast to the old man’s youth which was lovely and quite. The last one shows his neglected condition and thus he throws all his anger at Time, which is the main cause of all this loss.
The Speaker/poet laments about: (loss of) political power which he no more commands; his ability to understand and speak about love; women not looking at him as was the case in his young days.
Why anger against time: he does not have the company of friends and well-wishers who used to listen to he talk about love and politics; his lonely and neglected condition. This also agonizes him very much
Summary in one sentence: The poem presents the reminiscences of the poet’s young life which becomes more agonizing when he looks at his present state and contrasts his time of youth with his state in the old age.
What does the poem add to our knowledge of the old man (his character, attitude, circumstances): he was powerful person in the field of politics; he could talk about love; he was admired by beautiful women. The loss of these prowesses (skill or expertise in a particular activity or field) brings frustration, anger and bitterness in his old days. He can’t get all of these now. Thus, he hurls his anger at time that has irreversibly changed him. Character: romantic, revolutionary, influential (in his youth); attitude: bitter (old age); circumstances: he is old and lonely and loveless.
Raj Kumar Gautam; Arniko HSS ( Science ) Biratnagar; Nepal;, July 13, 2013

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