‘When the leaves in autumn wither
With a tawny tanned face…’
Old age and the process of ageing are things that we all think about at some time, either because we see people close to us growing old or because we ourselves are becoming conscious of the years passing. This collection is a selection of poems on what it’s like to be and to become old, experienced from within or observed from the outside, by poets ranging from Shakespeare to T. S. Elliot to Philip Larkin – and a few you may not have heard of.
Old age is many-faceted. It can show us the indomitable courage of Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘Fish’, the gentle, force-of-nature persistence of Wordsworth’s ‘Old Man Travelling’, and the cheeky bloody-mindedness of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Father William’. There are sad poems, funny poems, bleak poems, romantic poems, wistful, heartening and inspiring poems – the whole spectrum of human life, in fact.