HOW can I, that girl standing there,
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics?
Yet here’s a travelled man that knows
What he talks about,
And there’s a politician
That has read and thought,
And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war’s alarms,
But O that I were young again
And held her in my arms!
I have lots of sympathy for the sentiments expressed by Yeats in this poem, When you see a pretty girl in front of you, other concerns do tend to fade into the background. Here it is politics, but it could be business, schoolwork, or even writing poetry. This is why professional sportsmen used to be separated from their wives and girlfriends before big events (not sure that is still the case these days). But when a political leader falls into this trap he tends to be severely criticized, like Silvio Berlusconi.
Anyway, right or wrong, this poem captures that moment when the poet is listening to some deep and important political discourse, he sees a girl standing near him, and straight away his attention leaves the politician and he wishes or imagines that he is young and holding her in his arms. I;m guessing most of us know the feeling very well.