Login
Copyright

The Wild Swans at Coole by Yeats: Summary, Poem Analysis & Theme

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: To a Skylark by Shelley: Summary, Theme & Analysis

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Background: Poem & Author
  • 0:40 The Form of the Poem
  • 1:07 Analysis & Theme
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Debbie Notari
In the Yeats poem 'The Wild Swans at Coole,' we see a portrait of a placid lake where 59 wild swans are swimming peacefully. Yeats not only takes us to this lake, but also to an aching place inside the heart where we regret that time passes too quickly.

Background on the Poem and the Author

William Butler Yeats is probably Ireland's most famous poet. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. Throughout his poems, we see his longing for the quiet life that nature can bring. He wrote 'The Wild Swans at Coole' and published it in 1917 in a whole book of poems under that same title. Yeats was inspired to write the poem after seeing 59 wild swans at Coole Park, which was an estate owned by Lady Augusta Gregory in Ireland.

The Form of the Poem

The poem has five stanzas, and the rhyme scheme is a-b-c-b-d-d in every stanza. There is a mixture of iambic pentameter, iambic trimeter and iambic tetrameter in the poem. The style of this poem is very simple, and the language, accessible. Yeats was a master of wrapping depth of ideas into simple terms.

Analysis and Theme of the Poem

Take a look at each stanza and interpret the literal meanings and the themes that emerge as we go.

Stanza One

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.

In stanza one, we are introduced to the setting of the poem. The speaker in the poem is observing a lake in the autumn twilight. It is so still that it 'mirrors' the sky. There are stones in the water, and upon the lake 59 wild swans are swimming.

Stanza Two

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.

In stanza two, the speaker realizes that it has been 19 years since he first visited Coole Park and saw the swans. The swans fly up into the air all at once and fly away, circling as they go. It must have been a breathtaking sight.

Stanza Three

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.

After observing the swans, the poet's heart aches with regret. So much has changed in these 19 years since he first observed the swans so long ago. He muses that in those days he 'trod with a lighter tread.' Life did not weigh him down as it does now. He no longer feels carefree, and maybe he has put on a pound or two in those 19 years. That is certainly possible!

Stanza Four

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.

In stanza four, the poet notes that the swans seem unchanged. Swans usually mate for life and can live from 12 to 30 years. This is significant to the poem because the poet points out that these same swans may be 'unwearied' and many of them could possibly be the very swans he observed 19 years previously. They are still with their mates, 'companionable.'

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?
 Back

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support