The Wild Swans at Coole Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Wild Swans at Coole Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Dry paths

The image of the dry paths appears in the first stanza and it is placed at the opposite pole of the overflowing lake and the fifty- nine swans. Through this, two universes are created from the beginning of the poem: the lake, symbolizing life and abundance, and the space where the poet is, dominated by dryness and by autumn. For the poet, the dry paths symbolize the passing through time and the fact that in his universe, everything changes and dies while in the swans ‘universe, everything seems to remain unchanged.


The most important image and symbol in the poem is the presence of the swans. They remain unchanged and the lake is almost seen as a place that is out of time, a place where everything remains the same. The swans also symbolize the beauty, grace and energy and they receive a mythical status, unmoving through time and immune when faced with pain and weariness.


Twilight in the poem is more than just the time of the day when the poet walks by the lake and even from the beginning it is clear that twilight has a symbolic meaning. For the poet, twilight symbolizes the end, probably the end of his life as it is clear that the poet is no longer young and thinks about what will happen after he will be gone.


Stillness is a motif that appears in the poem. The only elements that appear to be in motion are the swans while everything around them is frozen and immobile. Even the poet, who describes what he sees, is a fixed point in the poem and we don’t get the feeling that he is moving. This motif only amplifies the idea of aging and decline which is also the central theme of the poem.


The poet recognizes that he is no longer the young man he used to be and that he is in the twilight of his life. He accepts this realization and doesn’t try to fight it by ignoring it. When he speaks about the swans in the end and how they will entertain other people, he speaks about that with certainty and there is no doubt that he accepted the fact that there will come a day when he will not be able to see the swans anymore. Because of this, the idea of accepting one’s fate and the passage of time represents a motif in the poem.

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