Study Guide

The Wild Swans at Coole Sadness

By W.B. Yeats


We can't help feeling that "The Wild Swans at Coole" is a really sad poem. The speaker picks a gloomy time of year (October) and keeps talking about twilight and how everything has changed (and for the worse, it seems). He talks about his heart being "sore" and exudes a powerful sense of melancholy throughout. In short, this guy haz a sad. Why? There are several good candidates, but the most pressing of these is his wrinkle-phobia, an acute consciousness of his old age.

Questions About Sadness

  1. Do you think this poem helps the speaker deal with his sadness? Does he feel better at the end? Why or why not? 
  2. How might the way the in which the speaker approaches his sadness differ from the way people today try to cheer themselves up?
  3. Are the swans a cure for, or cause of, the speaker's sadness?
  4. Would the speaker have been able to record his insights in the poem without feeling sad? Why do you think so?

Chew on This

Even though he contrasts his own weary sadness with the youthful exuberance of the swans, the speaker also implies that there are moments in life where we can momentarily set aside our personal feelings and just enjoy beauty. Ah…

The speaker's sadness is directly linked to his recognition of the reality (and inevitability) of death. Total bummer.