The theme of the beauty and mystery of life in Yeats' "Wild Swans at Coole".

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Explain how Yeats presents the beauty and mystery of life, love and human experience in “Wild Swans At Coole”

“Wild Swans at Coole” was written in the later stage of Yeats’s poetic life at the age of 51; 19 years after his first visit to Coole Park. Yeats is possibly seen to be reminiscent of his times as a young man with the world ahead of him as he compares himself to the majestic swans. His envy and appreciation of the swan can be seen to reflect on his love and experiences, and the true nature of Yeats. Additionally, the uncertain future of the swans and the doubt of their existence later on could suggest how mysterious and unpredictable life is and that there is a lack constants in life. These broad themes are also present in Yeats’s earlier poems such as “The Stolen Child” where human experiences are seen to be taken away by the fairies. Also, the theme of mystery is shared in the image of the gyres in multiple poems. However, the themes in “Wild Swans at Coole” are also quite different to some poems which reflect on Yeats’s conflicted writing and his experiences in life.

The theme of the beauty and mystery of life is explored throughout the poem. Yeats is seen to be in awe of the swans and their brilliance. Their sheer beauty makes Yeats appreciate life which can possibly be seen by the phrase “Delight men’s eyes”. This shows the beauty of life because Yeats feels humbled and lucky to be able to witness such amazing creatures. Moreover, use of the word “Delight” suggests a pleasurable experience, one which Yeats would like to witness again. Yeats also presents the beauty of life through the vivid description of his visits to the park as he reminisces. The use of the active voice for the season of “autumn” and putting himself in the passive shows that he accepts the splendour of autumn lets it overwhelm him. Also, the use of the word “shore” creates a sense of natural beauty. The shore is a point where two things meet which could perhaps be Yeats and nature. This emphasises his appreciation for life because he feels one with nature and hence a sense of inner peace.  However, even though there is beauty in the word “shore”, Yeats also shows a sense of mystery.  There is an element of uncertainty and limitlessness at the “shore” hence portraying the mysteries beyond the horizon which await him. Also, the time period of “twilight” suggests the cusp of change which possibly emphasis mystery as the change is uncertain and cannot be predicted.  Additionally, the insecurity displayed through the rhetoric question; “To find that they have flown away?” can be seen to show that nothing is everlasting and all beauties in life may not last. These themes of beauty and mystery are similarly seen in “The Stolen Child”, one of Yeats’s earlier poems.  The element of the ethereal fairies whose identities remain uncertain but live in a mystical and magical world creates a similar conflict between mystery and beauty. The detailed description of the “lake” and the “rocky highlands” suggests untouched         and unexplored land however; the “drowsy rats” suggests contamination and intoxication hence making the reader think twice because the fairies. However, in “September 1913” life is considered as easily replaceable due to the semantic field of death. The constant repetition of “O’Leary in the grave” can possibly be seen as Yeats trying to show that life isn’t considered worth living. This is further emphasis by Yeats belittling their sacrifice and almost stating it as madness to show that there is no beauty and reward in life.

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“The Wild Swans at Coole” has an overarching theme of love as Yeats is in love with the swans in the park as they remind him of when he “trod with a lighter tread” as his first visit to the park was at 32 years of age. Hence, the swans allowing him to remember better times can be inferred as Yeats seeing an image of him in the swans. His love for the swans is further emphasised by the lyrical song, ballad, like structure through the use of iambic metres and a complex a-b-c-b-d-d rhyme scheme. The purpose of the ...

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