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The Wild Swans at Coole

The Wild Swans at Coole


by W.B. Yeats

The Wild Swans at Coole Theme of Man and the Natural World

The title, "The Wild Swans at Coole," refers both to swans in the wild and the place where they enjoying being wild: Coole Park, in Ireland. The poem itself describes a number of natural features and is about both the beauty of nature and about the energy that characterizes the natural world. Indeed, for the speaker of the poem, nature is both powerful and beautiful, something that appears not to age and change the way the rest of the world starts to droop and sag. While the speaker implies at the end that the swans will fly away, for the time being they represent something that is static and "still"—a sad, yet dynamic, reminder of what he'll never be again. Bummer.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. What exactly do the swans in this poem symbolize? What parts of the poem lead you to your conclusion?
  2. Do you think these swans are actually real? Or is it possible that the speaker is imagining them? Why do you think so?
  3. Is nature truly an escape for the speaker? Or does it just remind him of his troubles? Why?
  4. How does the stillness of the landscape reflect the speaker's sense of himself?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

For the speaker of the poem, nature is unnatural. That is, it appears not to age ("their hearts have not grown old") according to a natural cycle. Weird, but powerful.

Although nature's tranquility and seeming changelessness is enviable (the speaker wishes he could possess those qualities), it is also kind of scary. Without change, there can be no learning. The speaker should be thankful for old age, since it has allowed him to craft such a doggone powerfully reflective poem.

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