I have long had a theory that the old man is Yeats. The young man reading
to him is Pound. And, the cottage is Stone Cottage where Yeats and Pound
spent a year reading together when Pound acted as Yeats' secretary. The
woman is Misses Welfare, their landlady, who also cooked and cleaned for the
With this reading of the major characters the poem becomes a critique of the
evolution of Yeats' poetry into Pound's.
Cribbing from Humprey Carpenter's "A Serious Character: The Life of Ezra
Pound" page 221--Pound writing to Dorothy said "You really must have a pair
of thick boots, or shoes, and warm socks. It is a drippy kind of place"
The cottage was on the "edge of a heath with our back to the woods". This
last from a letter quoted by Carpenter that Pound wrote his father.
Yeats and Pound had 4 rooms in the cottage
The cottage was apparently a windy and wet affair with plenty of isolation
in which Yeats wrote poetry by dictating to Pound. While not recording
Yeats' poetry Pound read to Yeats.
The entire experience was part of Pound's belief that literary talent could
be passed from a master to a disciple. The disciple owing talent and
inspiration to the master but the fruits of the contact could and would be
quite different from the Master's.