The Wild Swans at Coole
by William Butler Yeats
The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.
But now they drift on the still water,
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?
Summary of The Wild Swans at Coole
- Popularity of “The Wild Swans at Coole”: This poem was written by William Butler Yeats, a great Irish poet. ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’ is a popular poem about the transience of life. It was first published in 1917. The poem speaks about the infinite beauty of nature. It also reflects how the speaker’s life has transformed since he was a young man and enjoyed these bounties of nature with a lighter tread. It also expresses the changing nature of time and its impacts on mankind.
- “The Wild Swans at Coole” As a Representative of Life: This poem is an expression of wonder. The poem begins with the description of the beautiful Coole Park in the autumn. The speaker presents a pictographic image of the place such as; the dry woodland paths, still sky, and trees. Only the brimming water brings this calm scene to life. While reaching the shore of the lake, the speaker sees fifty-nine swans swimming peacefully upon the reflective water. This enchanting sight drags him into the past, making him remember the time when nineteen years ago, he visited the same place and observed the swans when suddenly they flew and scattered in the sky. He feels sorry for their preset state because he realizes that things have changed and so does the vibrant flight of the swans.
However, the unity and beauty of these creatures seem permanent to him. He thinks that even when they take a flight to another place, they provide comfort to another observer. So, very few things in the transient world are eternal.
- Major Themes in “The Wild Swans at Coole”: Beauty, the transience of life, and the changing nature of time are the major themes underlined in this poem. The poem presents two things; the existence of beauty and nature in rapidly transforming the transience universe and the speaker’s stance toward it. At first, the speaker describes the peaceful presence of swans upon the clear water, which makes him peep into his past. He realizes how time changes humans and life; beauty also fades away and loved ones are also lost. However, his lonely walk also makes him realize that some things in the universe last forever. To him, swans convey eternity as they continue to live and love without being bothered about the passage of time.
Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “The Wild Swans at Coole”
Literary devices are modes that represent writers’ ideas, feelings, and emotions. It is through these devices the writers make their few words appealing to the readers. William Butler Yeats has also used some literary devices in this poem to make it appealing. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been listed below.
- Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sounds of /o/ and /e/ in “Passion or conquest, wander where they will” and the sound of /ee/ in “I have looked upon those brilliant creatures.”
- Allusion: Allusion is a belief and an indirect reference of a person, place, thing, or idea of a historical, cultural, political, or literary significance. For example, numerous allusions to death such as; “dry paths”, “trees” and time setting point toward the idea of death.
- Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession such as the sound of /m/ in “Since I first made my count;” and the sound of /h/ in “Their hearts have not grown old”.
- Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it continues in the next line. For example,
“Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.”
- Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a device used to exaggerate a statement for the sake of emphasis. For example, exaggeration on the beauty of the swans, “scatter wheeling in great broken rings.”
- Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “Upon the brimming water among the stones”, “But now they drift on the still water” and “Companionable streams or climb the air.”
- Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different in nature. The poet has used swans as a metaphor of love, nature, and imagination.
- Personification: Personification is used to attribute human qualities to non-human things. Here, the swan personified throughout the poem. For example,
“They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air.”
Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “The Wild Swans at Coole”
Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.
- Sestet: A sestet is a six lined stanza borrowed from Italian poetry. The poem composed of five sestets.
- Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABCBDD rhyme scheme and this pattern continues until the end.
- Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are five stanzas in this poem with each comprises of six lines.
Quotes to be Used
The lines stated below are useful while talking about the changes autumn brings to the earth.
“The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky.”