Tuesday, October 28, 2014
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,
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?
W B Yeats (1865-1939)
The image above is an installation for Festa - the Christchurch Festival of Transitional Architecture. A line from a Yeats poem floating on the Avon river by the water wheel near the Worcester Street bridge. There was also an event at the weekend, which I didn't attend, where participants could write their own "words on water" - I'm not sure what with, but apparently the words would evaporate eventually, whereas the Yeats installation looks a bit more permanent.
I had initially thought Yeats must be a misprint for Keats, given that it is Keats who has as his epitaph "here lies one whose name was writ in water". But I found when I googled the line that it was indeed Yeats, from this lovely poem "The Wilds Swans at Coole".
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