Metaphor in Wild Swans

Metaphor Examples in Wild Swans:

Wild Swans 5

"crying!..."   (Wild Swans)

The word “trailing” bears two connotations here. First, we see the trailing legs of the swans, embodied through such detail. Second, the word describes the narrator’s perception. She tries to escape the confines of her daily existence and fully appreciate the swans, but her perception of the swans necessarily lags, “trails” behind them. The poet always chases the subject, never quite capturing.

"House without air..."   (Wild Swans)

“House without air” also points to domestic life. The suggestion is that one loses touch with the world in the daily toil of life, “house” offering both metaphor and metonym for such a mode of existence.

"House without air..."   (Wild Swans)

Millay builds on the metaphor of the “tiresome heart” with the image of the “house without air.” Both metaphors point to the narrator’s typical experience of the world, which is stifled and closed-off. The image of the “house without air” evokes in the reader a feeling of claustrophobic stuffiness. In a sense, the “house” is the mind, “air” the imagination.

"trailing your legs..."   (Wild Swans)

This command to the birds represents the narrator’s attempt to instruct or control the birds. Metaphorically this can be read as the poem itself: the narrator preserves her experience of the birds and their actions within the lines of her poem; in writing them she can control their movements and ascribe meaning to their existence.

"House without air..."   (Wild Swans)

This “house without air” can be interpreted as the narrator’s literal house. If the narrator is locking her door to walk into town, then she uses this metaphor to map the physical onto her emotional or mental state of being. Her physical house can then metaphorically represent the mundane everyday cycles that she lives through and must grapple with.