Yeats’ The Wild Swans at Coole is an impressive poem that revolves round the serene and unchanging charm in the world of nature compared to the human world of flux and decay. The poet stares at the familiar spectacle of fifty nine swans, swimming together on the brimful water of the lake of Coole. It is a dry lovely night of October with the quiet sky, reflected on the clear water of the lake.
The poet recalls how he saw first those nineteen swans some nineteen years before. He found them soaring from the water to fly noisily in the sky. The poet realizes sadly the change that has come over him in course of this time. The swans, however, have remained unchanged by the effect of time and seem to swim and fly together as in the past.
They appear wonderful, charming but the poet is aware of the sordid fact that they will move away ere long and settle elsewhere to delight other people.
The theme of the poem implies a contrast between the sad change in human moods and the undying joy of the natural world. Human rationality has made human joys and passions short-living. But the irrational world of the swans ever retains its passion and pleasure. The inner significance of the poem is serious and strikes a tragic note about the limitation of human life and joys.
The Wild Swans at Coole is, perhaps more enjoyable for its poetical qualities. Yeats’ lyrical gifts are clearly evident in its imagery as well as in its music. The entire imagery of the swans on the calm water of the lake of Coole is well drawn. The poem has a simple diction despite its serious inner significance. It has a melody which is well restrained, yet smoothly flowing. The music of the poem is perfectly in tune with the poet’s serious mood. Finally, it can easily be said that the poem is a happy instance of Yeats’ poetical creation.
The poem is a fine lyric. It specifically illustrates the fusion of Yeats’ depth of thought with his dexterity of art. In thought, imagination and melody, it has a balanced harmony. It represents truly and perfectly Yeats poetical gifts- his lyrical impulse and imaginative excellence. However, the most characteristic aspect of the poem is that it bears underneath its lyrical simplicity some deeper thoughts for the human world. For these reasons, I think it is a wonderful poem which is at once simple, sensuous and sonorous.
Book Reviewed by Oliva Roy
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