This nature poem by WB Yeats has both a wonderful description of swans on the water and the surrounding scene, but also a great connection with the passage of time and its impact on the poet. Coole is a place in Western Ireland, today a park and a nature reserve, where Yeats used to go and stay early in the twentieth century. Looks like a great place to visit.
The Wild Swans at Coole
W. B. Yeats, 1865 – 1939
The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine and fifty swans.
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?
The first stanza is purely descriptive and captures marvellously the tranquil autumn scene with the trees around the lake and the swans upon the water. The poet counts the swans up to 59. The second stanza introduces the passage of time, it is nineteen years since the poet began visiting and counting swans. The third stanza recounts how all has changed in those 19 years, presumably because the poet is that much older and has more sense and experience of the cares of the world. The fourth stanza contrasts these changes with the seeming unchanging view of the swans on the lake (although presumably this would be another generation of swans). The fifth stanza looks to the future – one day the swans will be gone and who will see them then?
In each stanza, note the rhymes, second and fourth line, fifth and sixth line, but first and third do not rhyme. Is that a standard form?
The Poetry Dude