The Wild Swans at Coole

A Poem Without Therapy: A Reading of The Wild Swans at Coole

"The Wild Swans at Coole" is a poem of equal parts reticence and disclosure. Though the substances are the same, a logic of proportion fails; reticence is disclosure. The poem is about mortality, transience, disillusionment, and loss; more literally, it is about beautiful trees and a lake of swans. The mystery of the poem lies in the intensity and resonance of its emotional charge: one finishes it feeling that an interior has been excavated, laid bare, as in the baldest confession, but of the poem's propositional content only one, entirely conventional statement directly addresses the poet's feeling: "And now my heart is sore." This is not an unbeautiful line, and it is a significant event in the poem; but the source of emotional impact lies elsewhere - in suggestion, elided narrative, and especially displacement: the speaker reveals himself through implied contrast with the landscape around him, and particularly with the swans that are the poem's subject and occasion.

The poem's manner is casually eloquent, poised between high and low art. The stanza invented by Yeats begins as a ballad, with alternating lines of tetrameter and trimeter. He adds a final couplet, any epigramatic force of which...

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