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The Wild Swans at Coole -- William Butler Yeats

Guest poem sent in by Radhika Gowaikar
(Poem #1939) The Wild Swans at Coole
 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
 Mysterious, beautiful;
 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?
-- William Butler Yeats
I am surprised that we haven't run this before. I think the line, "And
scatter wheeling in great broken rings" is what does it for me. It is as if
Yeats is part of the picture with the swans and yet remains a mere onlooker.
The line describes the image in my mind perfectly.

The idea of returning to a place time after time and contrasting the changes
in oneself with the (apparent) constancy of the surroundings is not exactly
novel. But this poem does it justice. Perhaps the popularity of the idea
stems the fact that we are all practitioners of it, though not always
consciously.

--
radhika.

Notes:

1. Coole Park and Gardens are understandably pround of their connection to
Yeats.
  http://www.coolepark.ie/

2. I am also reminded of this poem/song
  http://www.recmusic.org/lieder/get_text.html?TextId=8272
Men reminiscing by the water.

81 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

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