"The Wild Swans at Coole" is a poem that deals with the aging process of William Butler Yeats. It is a deeply personal poem that explores the cycle of life through nature. The poem is set in Coole Park in autumn, which is located on Lady Gregory’s estate. The poet is on or near the shore of a large pond, and is observing the swans. It has been nineteen years since the first time he came to this place, and it is on this visit that he begins to realize that he is getting older. The poet parallels nature in the poem, as it represents his present state while, in the poem, there is a contrast between the poet and the swan because the swan is used as a metaphor for the poet’s youth. The poem is written in iambic pentameter and consists of five pairs of stressed and unstressed syllables.
The use of nature in the poem serves to illustrate the poet’s age. The first line of the poem, "The trees are in their autumn beauty", presents the reader with a sense of maturity. The trees are ready to complete their yearly cycle by losing their leaves. A vision of bare branches comes to mind after reading this line, representing vulnerability in a bare tree. The leaves that the tree has shed protected the "skeleton" of the tree. Like the tree, the poet will lose something as well when his own cycle nears completion. The leaves can also be associated with the poet’s youth; like a tree, without its leaves, man without his youth is vulnerable. The poet will lose his youth, and in his old age, he too will be exposed to the harshness of the world. The use of the line "The woodland paths are dry" in line 2 reinforces the first line of the poem by presenting the reader with an image of dried...
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...eping, but he is in fact waking from his death.
"The Wild Swans at Coole" is a poem dominated by the ideas of the poet’s youth, and the presence of death in his future. Yeat’s uses symbols such as nature to represent his present self, and the swans to represent his youth. On this, the poet’s nineteenth visit to Coole, he becomes aware of his age. He parallels himself with much of what he sees in nature, and envies the swans because they represent a permanence that the poet could not achieve. It is as if time has stood still at this pond because it is the same as Yeat’s remembers it to be nineteen years ago. The ending of the poem foreshadows the poets demise, and it can be assumed that this visit will be his last to Coole Park on Lady Gregory’s estate.
Parrish, Stephen The Wild Swans at Coole (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1995)
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