Imagery in The Wild Swans at Coole

Imagery Examples in The Wild Swans at Coole:

The Wild Swans at Coole 4

"Upon the brimming water among the stones..."   (The Wild Swans at Coole)

In contrast to the stillness of the previous line, here the water is described as “brimming,” a word which connotes movement and life. When read against the previous line, this may suggest that nothing on earth may ever truly capture the eternal timelessness that the poet seeks. While the setting until this point has been undeniably idyllic, it is only now that the speaker introduces the element of movement. In this way, the brimming water may serve as a larger symbol for the inevitable movement of life.

"still..."   (The Wild Swans at Coole)

The description of stillness could also represent an inherent timelessness found only in nature. We are soon to learn that this “stillness” is what the speaker yearns for but cannot reach, as both he and the world around him must continue to develop and change.

" twilight..."   (The Wild Swans at Coole)

The description of the setting as “autumn” and “twilight” uses the changing of the seasons to foreshadow the central theme of aging, change, and mortality. Autumn is often employed metaphorically to connote sentiments of decay or decline, as the life of summer gives way to the death of winter. Written at age fifty-one, after years of turmoil in both in Yeats’s personal life and in the wider political life of Ireland, this poem reflects the potential despair one may feel when contemplating the inevitable passage of time.

"in great broken rings..."   (The Wild Swans at Coole)

The image of the swans flying off in “great broken rings” gets at the heart of the poem’s theme. The speaker has seen the swans at Coole each autumn for nineteen years in a row, an annual cycle. At the poem’s end, the speaker expresses fear for the day the swans will be gone. The breaking of this cycle is foreshadowed by the metaphor of the broken ring.