Friday, October 28, 2016


Not wild swans at all, and not at Coole. I photographed these at Stourhead,
a National Trust estate in Wiltshire, England. The year was 1984.
It had just started to rain, and a drop on my lens blurred the mama swan.

It was January 1962, the second semester of my Sophomore year at college, and after taking a half-year course in Chaucer, Middle English language lab a requirement for that, I started the second half of the year with a course on Yeats. There should have been a “language lab” in the wild and wonderful, for that’s how I found Yeats’ poetry. This one has been one of my favorites since then. (And why, I’ve wanted to know for ages, don’t we pronounce Yeats as Yeets, or Keats as Kates?)

The Wild Swans at Coole

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?

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