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Humanities Libertexts

13.5: The Wild Swans at Coole

[1]

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
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?

 1919

Contributors


  1. Coole Park was the name of the estate which belonged to Yeats’s dear friend, Lady Augusta Gregory, co-author of at least one of his plays and partner with him in the management of the Abbey Theatre. For years—the “nineteenth autumn” in this poem—Yeats was a house guest at Coole Park. The estate included a small lake, where lived the “nine-and-fifty swans” he describes here. 
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