Discuss ways in which Yeats considers change in The Wild Swans At Coole
In your answer, explore the effects of language, imagery and verse form, and consider how this poem relates to other poems by Yeats that you have studied.
In The Wild Swans at Coole Yeats uses a memory of his youth, caused by his viewing
of the swans before him, to contemplate how his relationship with Maud Gonne has
changed over time, as well as how he himself has changed.
He opens the poem with the line ‘The trees are in their autumn beauty,’ emphasising
the word ‘autumn’ to suggest things coming to an end, the end of youth and the
approach of death. This is reflected in the following line with the word ...view middle of the document...
As with Wild Swans, the moon is
presented as distant from the Cat, conveying Yeats’s loneliness, ‘The pure cold light in
the sky/ Troubled his animal blood’. Yeats emphasises the emotional pain caused by
the moon with the adjectives ‘pure’ and ‘cold’, juxtaposing this with Yeats’s idealization
of Maud, conveyed in the phrase ‘light in the sky’. In the same way, looking at the
swans causes feelings of loneliness and isolation in Yeats, emphasized by the odd
number ‘nine and fifty swans’ and the disruptive and fragmented imagery of stanza
2, in which he uses the word ‘scatter’ and ‘great broken rings’ to create a sense of
disturbance and disharmony, contrasting to his idealization of the swans as ‘brilliant
creatures’ representing continuity and consistency over time.
‘Unwearied still, lover by lover’ contrasts to the way in which Yeats himself grows old
and is continually subjected to loneliness and isolation as his love for Maud Gonne is
unrequited, emphasized by the declarative and monosyllabic line ‘Their hearts have
not grown old’.
In terms of structure, Yeats emphasises the concept of change by creating a cyclical
structure in which the poem starts in the present, goes into memory, and returns
back to the present. The imagery of a peaceful lake reflected in the sky, emphasised
in stanza one by the sibilance ‘still sky’ and the trochee placed on ‘Mirrors’, breaking
away from the usually iambic rhythm in the poem, is mirrored in stanza five with
the phrase ‘But now they drift on the still water’, the word ‘drift’ emphasising the
peacefulness of the swans, who are idealized into ‘Mysterious, beautiful’. The word
‘now’ brings the poem declaratively back into the present, contrasting this peaceful
imagery to the sense of disturbance created in stanzas two and there, in which the
dramatic line ‘All suddenly mount’ is followed by the participle ‘wheeling’ in the next
line, creating a sense of lack of...