Poem Analysis: The Wild Swans At Coole

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The poem, in its most simplistic state, speaks to the inevitability of growing old and death. The title, ‘The Wild Swans at Coole,’ gives extraordinary meaning to ordinary birds as they carry out their typical activities on a pond; something poetry is famed for. The speaker has visited this pond for quite some time and is now on his ‘nineteenth autumn.’ ‘All has changed’ since his first visit, but the swans, the pond, the surrounding landscape, has remained ‘still’; a word that resonates throughout the poem. The speaker contemplates on his life, his old age, and his coming death as he watches the swans; he is fatigued and lethargic, but the swans that he admires are relatively the opposite, possibly reminding him of his younger days, when…show more content…
‘…the water Mirrors a still sky.’ The water is so still, it doubly captures the meticulous stillness of the sky as well. Further uses of the word come in the perpetual manners of the swans; ‘Unwearied still’ and ‘Attend upon them still.’ This leaves us with a sense of lastingness; unchanging and unaffected by the passage of time experienced by the speaker. This stillness contrasts with the mobility expressed by the swans as the speaker recalls his first time encountering them those many autumns ago. ‘All suddenly mount And scatter wheeling in great broken rings Upon their clamorous wings.’ This line attests to the unexpectedness and intensity surrounding the flight of the swans as they move in a circular arrangement above the head of the speaker. This spontaneity of the swans, however, vanishes in the final stanza; ‘But now they drift on the still water, Mysterious, beautiful.’ This leads the readers to question now the actuality of the swans themselves. This mimicry of the swans in an appeal to the speaker's variation in tone over the years and poem makes us wonder; are the swans a projection of the speaker as he deals with his forceful, negative feelings of old age? Are they just coping mechanisms as he navigates the imminent end of his life? These are the questions that are left unanswered, ones that must be given an explanation to by the individual readers…show more content…
Just like this last, lonely swan, the speaker is very much the same. Throughout the poem, there is no mention of friendship or relations for the speaker, who visits the lake in solitude to watch and contemplate his life. This infers a separation from civilization and a close connection with nature. Martin Puhvel remarks that “any reader of the poem who has ever paid even fleeting attention to a flock of wild waterfowl can hardly avoid reflecting that the counting of such a large number of wild swans would be no mean feat for anybody,” and this fact functions to further distance the poem and speaker from human
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