The Wild Swans at Coole<br />William Butler Yeats<br />Presentation By: Megan Duffy<br />
The Poem<br />The trees are in their autumn beauty,<br />The woodland paths are dry,<br />Under the October twilight the water<br />Mirrors a still sky;<br />Upon the brimming water among the stones<br />Are nine-and-fifty swans.<br />The nineteenth autumn has come upon me<br />Since I first made my count;<br />I saw, before I had well finished,<br />All suddenly mount<br />And scatter wheeling in great broken rings<br />Upon their clamorous wings.<br />I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,<br />And now my heart is sore,<br />All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,<br />The first time on this shore,<br />The bell-beat of their wings above my head,<br />Trod with a lighter tread.<br />Unwearied still, lover by lover,<br />They paddle in the cold<br />Companionable streams or climb the air;<br />Their hearts have not grown old;<br />Passion or conquest, wander where they will,<br />Attend upon them still.<br />But now they drift on the still water,<br />Mysterious, beautiful;<br />Among what rushes will they build,<br />By what lake’s edge or pool<br />Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day<br />To find they Have flown away?<br />
Poem Summary<br />Yeats examines his stay at Coole Park in County Galway, Ireland. He specifically focuses on the swans floating on the lake, and how they represent both memories of his youth and the pain of the passage of time.<br />
Form<br />5 6-line stanzas<br />Rhyme Scheme: A B C B D D<br />
What is the poem’s purpose?<br />The poem examines the passage of time, and how lives change over the course of time.<br />Specifically, his life has changed dramatically over the nineteen years since he first arrived at Coole Park.<br />
How fully does the poem accomplish its purpose?<br />The nature imagery in the poem draws a very descriptive picture of life at the tranquil lake at Coole Park.<br />“Trees…in their autumn beauty” (l. 1)<br />“the water mirrors a still sky” (l. 3-4).<br />“they drift on the water, mysterious, beautiful” (l. 25-26)<br />Yeats utilizes euphony to accentuate the serenity and peacefulness of the scene at the lake.<br />“trees”, “autumn”, “woodland”, “twilight”, “water”, “still sky”, “stones”, “swans”.<br />
Continued<br />Yeats contrasts the lives of the swans with his own life to demonstrate the passage of time and the changes that have occurred.<br />“Unwearied still…their hearts have not grow old” (l. 19, 22).<br />The departure of the swans symbolizes the fleeting nature of time as well as all that he’s missed in that span. This idea is also developed by his analogy of having been asleep and waking up to find the swans have left.<br />“Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day/to find they have flown away?” (l. 29-30).<br />
How important is this purpose?<br />“All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight…the bell-beat of their wings above my head” (l. 15, 17).<br />The poem was first published in 1917, right in the midst of World War One and the Irish Revolution. Considering Yeats’ first trip to Coole Park was in 1897, much has changed in that span of time, and changed dramatically. He has no doubt witnessed the demise of many acquaintances in these two wars.<br />This purpose is extremely important, and is executed skillfully and artfully. This subject matter certainly must have struck a chord with his peers, and even today people can identify with the dramatic changes and events that occur over time, and the melancholy that can result from it.<br />
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