Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585) had the idea first:
Quand vous serez bien vieille, au soir, à la chandelle,
Assise aupres du feu, devidant et filant,
Direz, chantant mes vers, en vous esmerveillant :
Ronsard me celebroit du temps que j’estois belle.
Lors, vous n’aurez servante oyant telle nouvelle,
Desja sous le labeur à demy sommeillant,
Qui au bruit de mon nom ne s’aille resveillant,
Benissant vostre nom de louange immortelle.
Je seray sous la terre et fantaume sans os :
Par les ombres myrteux je prendray mon repos :
Vous serez au fouyer une vieille accroupie,
Regrettant mon amour et vostre fier desdain.
Vivez, si m’en croyez, n’attendez à demain :
Cueillez dés aujourd’huy les roses de la vie.
Surely inspired by this, rather than arriving at it independently, W B Yeats wrote:
When you are old and grey 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;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
Lovely, isn’t it. But Tom Lehrer couldn’t resist:
The most popular type of popular song is of course the love song, and I’d like to illustrate several subspecies of this form during the evening. First of all, the type of love song where the fellow tells the girl that although the years ahead will almost certainly destroy every vestige of her already dubious charms, that nonetheless his love for her will shine on forever through the years, you know. Another example of stark realism in the popular song.
This particular example is called When You Are Old And Grey, and I’d like to dedicate it to anyone in the audience who is still in love with each other.
Since I still appreciate you,
Let’s find love while we may.
Because I know I’ll hate you
When you are old and grey.
So say you love me here and now,
I’ll make the most of that.
Say you love and trust me,
For I know you’ll disgust me
When you’re old and getting fat.
An awful debility,
A lessened utility,
A loss of mobility
Is a strong possibility.
In all probability
I’ll lose my virility
And you your fertility
And this liability
Of total sterility
Will lead to hostility
And a sense of futility,
So let’s act with agility
While we still have facility,
For we’ll soon reach senility
And lose the ability.
Your teeth will start to go, dear,
Your waist will start to spread.
In twenty years or so, dear,
I’ll wish that you were dead.
I’ll never love you then at all
The way I do today.
So please remember,
When I leave in December,
I told you so in May.