The poem “Crabbed Age and Youth” by William Shakespeare is about a sharp contrast between the young and the old. According to Oxford References, this poem is not written by Shakespeare as it doesn’t have the basic techniques used by Shakespeare in almost all of his poems.
The poem consists of a single stanza having 21 lines. There is no definite rhyme scheme. Rather some lines rhyme while others don’t. We can divide the poem into two main parts. In the first part, the poet draws a contrast between old and young. In the second part, he talks about a young maid and her love and longing for the young shepherd.
Part 1 (Lines 1-15)
According to the poet, Crabbed Age and Youth cannot live together. The word “Crabbed” here means an old man. The line means that a young and an old have differences of earth and sky. Their opinions, interests, perspectives and habits are opposite to each other. Hence, due to the sharp contrast between the two, they cannot remain happy with each other.
Youth is full of pleasance while age is full of care. The word “pleasance” means pleasing. The line means that a young person always seeks pleasure and does the things which please him while an old rather believes in care and precautions. A young hates precautions while an old hate pleasure-seeking habits – again a big difference!
Youth is like summer morn while age is like winter weather. Summer morning is full of life, hot and energetic while the winter weather is full of cold, loneliness, and lifelessness. The poet is saying that a young person is energetic, passionate and aspiring while an old person is lonely, joyless and aimless.
In the next line, the poet again repeats the same thing. According to him, Youth is summer brave while age is winter bare. Brave here means “lavish” and bare means ‘miser’. A young man spends his life lavishly while old rather believes in fulfilling the needs.
Youth is full of sports while age’s breath is short. The line means that a young person is energetic and adventurous. He believes in doing dangerous things while an old person is too weak to do that. He rather believes in taking rest.
This is why Youth is nimble, hot and bold i.e. quick, passionate, courageous and flexible while old is lame, weak and cold neither quick nor flexible but rather slow, weak, depressed like winter and rigid. Youth is wild i.e. zealous, focussed, brave while age is tame i.e. broken, gentle and weak.
Part 2 (Lines 16-21)
From line 16, a young maid expresses her desire for the young person and his youth. According to her, she abhors i.e. hates the aged or old man while adores i.e. loves the young person because she considers her love to be young. (Learn more)
For her love is always young. Hence she defies i.e. resists and stays away from aged. Hence she tells her beloved, a shepherd to go away before he gets aged because she doesn’t want to stay with him.
Note that the lady is in the pursuit of youth. For her love is young and a person can be in love only when he is young. Hence, when her beloved shepherd will be old, the love will wither away. Hence she asks him to go away when he gets aged.