How is the theme of change represented in "Wild Swans at Coole"?

Authors Avatar by emmaroberts127 (student)

‘‘The nineteenth autumn has come upon me Since I first made my count’’

Discuss the ways in which Yeats presents change in ‘Wild Swans at Coole’.

Yeats presents the theme of change in ‘Wild Swans at Coole’ as he (as the persona in the poem) watches the swans and contrasts that while everything in his life has changed, the swans remain the same as they always have been.

   Yeats writes ‘‘the nineteenth autumn has come upon me Since I first made my count”, to show the reader that nineteen years have passed since Yeats first came to the water and watched the swans. Coole was owned by Yeats’ friend Lady Gregory, so was a place Yeats went to reflect. The lake allows the persona to ponder and dwell on his loneliness, as he is still without a partner. The ‘autumn’ gives the reader the idea of seasons, and autumn being a particular time in the year important to Yeats. Being a season, it also introduces the idea of cycles of the year: Yeats has shown in other poems like The Second Coming that the passing of time and cycles were significant to him.  Nineteen years is a long amount of time, and the poem being published in 1917 shows that in the nineteen years of his life prior to the poem, a lot had happened- the first world war, the civil war and (perhaps the main focus of this poem) many rejected marriage proposals to Maud Gonne. ‘Since I first’ gives a reminiscent tone as Yeats shows he’s looking back on his life. Yeats making ‘his count’ shows that he always feels the need to come back to the place and count again. This could be Yeats presenting that while everything changes, Coole is his place that remains constant. By writing ‘upon me’ and making himself not the subject, but the object pronoun, he perhaps conveys that he feels like he is out of control of this inevitable change, as it’s being done to him and he is passive to the power change has on his life.

Join now!

   Form is also used to convey an idea of change. It’s a very regular stanza form, with 5 stanzas of 6 lines. It also has an uneven rhyme scheme that alternates in and out of control. This allows Yeats to show the different stages of life; perhaps the 5 stanzas could be childhood, teenage years, young, middle aged and then old age. Alternatively, it could be him showing the stages of a relationship (maybe his and Maud Gonne’s) and how they progress over time. This could be ironic as while the poem clearly looks at relationships, Yeats ...

This is a preview of the whole essay