The Wild Swans at Coole
The poet is at Coole, the estate of his friend Lady Gregory. It is autumn - October. He is looking out at the lake, where there are fifty nine swans. It is the nineteenth year that he has seen the sight. As he thinks, the swans fly into the air and circle. He thinks about what has passed in the years gone by. His thoughts return to the paired swans, together in the cold air, or in the water. He watches them swim, and wonders who will watch them next.
The poem has five stanzas of six lines each. The rhyme scheme is generally abcbdd. The rhythm is flowing, songlike, melodious and slow.
The language is bedtime story-like in the opening stanza, which sets the scene, there are "woodland path[s]", a "still sky" and "brimming water". It becomes noisier in the second stanza. A lot of the expressions are well used "my heart is sore", "trod with a lighter tread", and "delight men's eyes".
The story is told distantly, the narrator/poet is passive. He "count[s]", "look[s]", "awakes" and "finds". The swans are the only active participants in the poem.
The tone of the first stanza is a factual, scene-setting tone. The poet is not investing much emotion besides calm and an appreciation of beauty into the scene. The introduction of "I" into the second stanza makes it more personal. The second half of this stanza becomes disjointed, the tone startled. The third stanza draws back from the active verbs, again personal, but this time melancholy, he is nostalgic, wistful, his "heart is sore". The fourth stanza has hint of admiration mixed in its envy and awe and the fifth returns to melancholy, disappointment and loneliness.
The mood almost immediately assumes Yeats' typical regrets in aging. In particular, the poem has moments of loneliness, regret, envy and inevitability, as well as a sense of fraternity in these emotions among humanity. The implication is that the swans...