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Poetry Commentary: the Wild Swans at Coole by Yeats

xKeeping with the style of the romantic era, Yeats focuses his energy on glorifying nature to show the reader its contrast to the bleakness of the cities emerging and expanding rapidly across an increasingly industrialized Europe. On a more personal level, the poem reflects Yeats’ unanswered love for Maude Gonne. Yeats sets a still and weathered scene in the first stanza. The word autumn in the first line symbolizes something coming to an end, and this is further emphasized by the time of day, “under the October twilight the water/ Mirrors a still sky.

This lack of movement reminds the reader of death and emptiness. In the last line Yeats mentions the subjects of the poem, “nine-and-fifty swans”, which is an odd number. This is significant because he later refers to the swans as couples in the third stanza, “Unwearied still, lover by lover,” meaning that one swan must be alone, missing a companion. This might be Yeats’ way of including himself and his rejection in the poem. In the following stanza, Yeats expresses a sense of sudden surprise in his life through, “The nineteenth autumn has come upon med.

I saw, before I had well finished. The final two lines of the second stanza may be references to the sudden violence and destruction of the First World War, “And scatter wheeling in great broken rings/ Upon their clamorous wings. ” The suddenness of the birds’ noisy flight suggests that something, or perhaps someone, scares them away. In Yeats’ own life, this may have been similar to Maude Gonne backing away from his love proclamations.

Further more, the second stanza makes use of consonance to ease the flow of the words by repeatedly using 00′ sounds, such as Come’, Count’, ;mount’, ;broken’, and DuPont’. This repeated use, in conjunction with the hardness of the words gives a harsh tone to the second stanza fringed by the sadness of his broken heart. Yeats is contemplating the imminent changes that take place from year to year in the third stanza. The reminiscence of how things used to be saddens him, “l have looked upon those brilliant creatures, / And now my heart is sore. He realizes that not only he, but also the swans have grown older and heavier, “The first time on this shore, / The bell-beat of their wings above my head, / Trod with a lighter tread,” or perhaps the swans are the same, UT his mind is heavier and older, ultimately altering his perception. The use of the word Cell-beat’ aids the auditory imagery of the reader by using alliteration and onomatopoeia to convey the flapping of the swan’s wings. Additionally, the enjambment present disguises the end-rhymes more in this stanza than in the others, creating a softer and doleful tone.

The poet closes in on the main sentiments behind the poem, and is much more direct, in the second to last stanza by actually identifying the swans as couples, leaving no doubt that the poem is about amorous love. It is no coincidence that the subjects of the poem re swans, knowing that swans are among the very few animals that never have more than one partner throughout life. Should their partner pass away they never find a new partner but chose solitude. Although not entirely by his own choice, Yeats remained UN-married throughout his life but dedicated himself to Maude Gonne.

The first line, “Unwearied still, lover by lover,” reveals a touch of jealousy on his behalf of the multitude of married couples surrounding him. Yeats feels different, or like the odd one out, while everyone else, “paddle in the cold/ Companionable streams or climb the air. ” Yeats blames the weariness ND numbness of his heart on his solace and rejection, “Their hearts have not grown old; / Passion or conquest, wander where they will, / Attend upon them still. Once again, Yeats uses assonance to express his softer, sadder emotions, in this, as well as the last stanza, with a repeated use of њw’ in Dinnerware’, ;grown’, ;wander’, ;where’, and њwill’. However, the tone is also more bitter now, reflecting Yeats’ jealousy of those who shared their life with someone they loved. Yeats, it seems, reconciles himself with his unrequited love, and the tone swings towards being curious and inquisitive about what the future holds. It’s as if he comes to terms with all the changes that have occurred and prepares himself for the way his life might be transformed from here on.

Yeats conveys this by questioning, “Among what rushes will they build; / By what lake’s edge or pool / Delight men’s eyes! ]’ In the first and second line Yeats states, “About now they drift on the still water, / Mysterious, beautiful,” suggesting that he’s not sure where the future is heading, and that Maude is drifting; towards him or away from him he’s not quite sure. He finds the swans, or Maude, “Mysterious, beautiful,” and wonder if, “when I awake some day to find they have flown away?

Yeats is afraid he will be left behind without prior notice, to find that his eternal love watched by another man, living in another lake, building her nest with a stranger. The Wild Swans at Cooler sums up Yeats’ disappointment with what life gave him, and with the kind of place the world became during his lifetime. Yeats uses swans either to personify his love, Maude Gonne, or to contrast the beauty present in nature to the functionalism of the cities. What keeps humans afloat is the belief and hope that things will, on the whole, improve, and that what’s been painful will hurt less as time passes.

However, in this poem, Yeats relates his discovery of the exact opposite happening to him; he would never have imagined the swans changing and leaving, but relied on them as a point of reference: a constant in his ever-changing existence. The whole poem condemns change, but accepts it as inevitable towards the end in accordance with the tone having changed from being bitter to somewhat courageous. I think Yeats has written a tremendously poignant poem that will last the test of time, and accurately convey the feelings of one experiencing undesired change. Bibliography: Yeats, William Butler. “The Wild Swans at Cooler”

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