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Commentary on 'The Wild Swans at Coole' by W.B. Yeats

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Introduction

Ruth Haines Commentary on 'The Wild Swans at Coole' by W.B. Yeats 'The wild Swans at Coole' is a poignant and contemplative Poem written by Yeats typical of his spiritualistic and mysterious style. It was written towards the end of his career/life, reflecting his growing realisation of human immortality in that he is growing older and nearing the end of his life. Throughout the poem Yeats constantly uses the strong image of swans, which to him appear immortal, as a contrast to his own fading life to communicate his awareness of human transience. To compliment the development of this idea of nearing death, Yeats uses a combination of natural imagery, soft language and the form of a regular lyric to create an overall serene and slightly melancholic quality to the poem. At the beginning of poem, particularly in the first stanza the use of natural imagery and language creates a calm and serene tone. The poem follows a regular lyric structure in six stanzas of six lines each, it alternates four beat and three beat lines with the rhyming structure of ABCBDD. ...read more.

Middle

This realisation in the poets mind is reflected in the sudden movement of the swans as they suddenly all fly away before he 'had well finished' counting them. The use of words such as 'great broken' and 'clamorous' is a contrast to the soft and flat descriptions in the previous stanza, 'still' and 'dry' and this change evokes the feeling that the tranquillity created before is now being disturbed. Although the general feeling of calm crated by the soft language and regular rhyming structure is still remains strong, this sudden use of dramatic language combined with the development of the idea of nearing death creates a slight undertone of disturbance and very mild panic. The tone slightly shifts again in the third stanza and the undertone of disturbance and panic created previously is toned down evolving into a stronger tone of sadness and melancholic. The poet describes how when he has 'looked upon those brilliant creatures' his feels that his 'heart is sore'. ...read more.

Conclusion

Yeats returns back to his use of soft language as the poem is brought back into the present, 'But now'. He ends the poem with a series of rhetorical questions which's purpose its bring the poem back to its central theme, Yeats's nearing death. 'Among what rushes will they build By what lake's edge or pool Delight men's eyes when I awake some day To find they have flown away?' The effect of ending the poem with these rhetorical questions is that the reader realises that the questions will remain unanswerable as Yeats will die and never know the answers, thus bringing the focus to the central theme of the poem, human life is transient and the swan species will endure after Yeats life. Throughout the poem Yeats successfully uses imagery of a similar theme and a range of soft and effective language to effectively develop his central theme of ageing. The use of a strong central symbol like the swan helped to easily develop this idea and communicate it to the reader. I think that the combination of an overall mellow and serene yet moving tone with a relevant and accessible idea makes this poem very effective and inspirational. ...read more.

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This essay highlights the dangers of not checking your facts. The writer is led astray by the insistence that Yeats is 'near death' when it would be so easy to check the date of the poem and in what year Yeats died.
Despite this, there are insights here into the theme of transience and into how the swans operate as a symbol.
However, the writer sometimes makes claims which are not justified by careful and precise textual reference.
***

Marked by teacher Val Shore 27/03/2012

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