“The Wild Swans At Coole” Poetry Analysis

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Poetry fashions ideas, pictures, and feelings into the minds of the audience or readers. This style of writing is typically imaginary and consists of figures of speech to produce a broader or simpler image. Not every poem can be easily understood, the thought processes of the reader must not be narrow. Instead, they should be open to the many ideas that lie in between the lines and stanzas. In other words, the theme of a poem can be in plain sight, or it can be hidden and left as a cliff-hanger for the reader to analyze. As for William Butler Yeats, in his poem titled “The Wild Swans At Coole,” he uses imagery to describe a beautiful scene as well as the emotions that came along with it. However, his poem can be interpreted in many ways: sadness, happiness, satisfaction, and even grief, almost as if there is not theme, just a description to share his experience.

In Yeats’s first stanza, he introduces the scene by describing the season, “The trees are in their autumn beauty” (1.1). The leaves of the trees are orange and yellow, making the surrounding area seem a lot more vibrant and pleasing. As Yeats continues the description, the reader may share the feeling of ataraxia that is felt by the speaker. Furthermore, Yeats describes the elegance of the autumn sky, “Under the October twilight the water/Mirrors a still sky;” (1.3-4). The light blue color of a twilight sky functions to make the reader picture the scene and think of the peace that was felt by the speaker.

Yeats introduces the swans in the first stanza, “Are nine—and—fifty swans” (1.6). The swans in this poem are written to be majestic and their purpose is to add sound to the picture. For instance, in the third stanza Yeats states “The bell–beat of their wings above my head/Trod with a lighter tread” (3.6-7). The figurative language adds description to the way the swans beat their wings, a reader may conclude that these swans must have been large in size. With their wings beating and the view of the twilight sky, this scene seems to be a peaceful moment for the reader. Autumn, which is arguably the reader’s favorite season because of the swans, has an elegant vibe to it that can be imagined by any reader.

The speaker enjoys the swans more than the actual scene, he describes the swans with such enthusiasm, “I have looked upon the brilliant creatures” (3.1). Describing a swan as “brilliant” gives them a meaning far from their physical appearance, the speaker cherishes the way the swans move around and float gently on the water. As the swans left, the speaker says, “And now my heart is sore” (3.2). A sore heart can signify a loss of something special. As for the speaker, it was the scene of the twilight sky as well as the swans relaxing and suddenly flying away. He lost the scene, lost the peace, and lost the pleasure in the autumn sky.

The speaker holds this season near his heart, for he keeps count of these twilight skies in autumn, “The nineteenth Autumn has come/Since I first made my count;” (2.1-2). This statement symbolizes that the speaker enjoys this season because of the peace that comes along with it. The swans hold a deep meaning as well, for they are portrayed as “Mysterious,beautiful;” (5.2). The rest of Yeats’s poem consists of these mystic creatures, so they must play a much greater role in the speaker’s life. He must envy the way these birds can soar out into the sky and beat their wings towards any direction they please. In the fifth stanza, the line “Among what rushes they will build” (5.3), symbolizes that the speaker yearns for a thrill, or yearns for excitement. The speaker may be anxious for this time of the year, so he can see those beautiful birds along with the twilight sky.

In the last stanza the movement of the swans is described, “But now they drift on the still water,” (5.1). When the swans float on the water, it is as if they are not moving their bodies at all, it looks like they are moving with the flow of the water. But Yeats does not describe them like that, he says they “drift.” A drift is a fluid movement and that particular description also adds an elegant image. No splashing while they beat their wings, and no disturbance in the water. A very calming experience at the least. He goes on to state that these swans will be enjoyed by any shore, “By what lake’s edge or pool/Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day” (5.4-5). The speaker admires their beauty more than the natural twilight sky, he speaks of the swans as young and full of passion, “Their hearts have not grown old;/Passion or conquest, wander where they will,” (4.5-6). He admires the way the swans can choose to fly wherever they please, yet they still choose to drift along the water of the river.

Poetry has a way of making certain situations more enjoyable, the amount of expression can only be measured by the length of a writer’s vocabulary. Yeats’s choice of words allows a reader to not only picture but feel the moment. Adding swans into this poem is a fantastic way to add a sort of symbolism, as well as a hearing aid to the poem. The swans also add a greater connection between the speaker and the scene, “Unwearied still, lover by lover,” (4.1). Yeats’s word choice is also meant to stray far from a single conclusion. Many conclusions can be made from this poem, the speaker can be upset, the speaker can be worried, the speaker can be lonely, and he can also be at peace with his setting. His word choice is soft and passionate regarding the descriptions that he uses. The figurative language adds further description, so the reader can understand the speaker’s true feelings towards the scene.

The speaker adds emotion to this poem by connecting these swans to his heart, once he saw those swans, he felt that no moment will be greater than it. He states that “All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,” (3.3). This moment changed the speaker’s feelings towards any other scene. As if there will never be a more special moment than viewing the swans on the water. Furthermore, as confusing as it may be to settle on a theme for this poem, it is safe to say that the speaker embraced this moment with passion. The passion may be driven by sadness, happiness, comfortability, or loneliness. However, the many different conclusions to this poem is what allows it to be intriguing.

Yeats did well at keeping a theme that can be formed by opinions, the theme remains questionable throughout the whole poem. The first stanza describes the scene and introduces a peaceful vibe, which drags the reader into the poem. In the second stanza, he introduces the swans, but he has yet to explain their importance. The third stanza explains the importance of these creatures and the way they changed the feelings of the speaker. Also, he describes the sound of their wings to add audio to the poem. Furthermore, in the fourth stanza, he brings out his passion towards these swans, describing them as young and pointing out that they can fly wherever they want. Finally, in the fifth stanza, he indicates that wherever these swans choose to fly, they will please any eyes that watch them. This poem conveyed emotion using a vivid experience and a beautiful creature to enhance the scene of the twilight sky in autumn.

Works Cited

  1. Yeats, William Butler. “The Wild Swans at Coole by William Butler Yeats.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, May 2017, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43288/the-wild-swans-at-coole.

Cite this paper

“The Wild Swans At Coole” Poetry Analysis. (2021, Jul 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-wild-swans-at-coole-poetry-analysis/



What do the fifty nine swans refer to?
The fifty nine swans refer to the fifty nine days of the lunar cycle.
What poetic techniques are used in The Wild Swans at Coole?
The Wild Swans at Coole is a poem that uses many poetic techniques, including alliteration, assonance, and consonance.
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