Wild Swans Near Gladstone
by James P. Lenfestey
A pair of swans lingers in the bay
opposite the freeway in upper Michigan in summer.
“Mated for life,” I point out to my wife,
“Mute swans,” she says, not looking,
“no need to talk.” I note the graceful mute life,
she driving her quiet Prius, me a quiet guest.
When her eyes, weary, reluctantly offer me
the wheel, it is like relinquishing a broken
sword into tall grass after a day of battle.
Now my turn to drive, and my mind wanders
over the pair of elegant swans seen every time
we pass the curve of the bay together, or alone.
I don’t think the titles of these two poems are a coincidence. So how does that connection add greater complexity to Lefenstey’s poem? And does it equally impart a different layer of meaning to Yeats’ poem? In my opinion, time is not linear in literature, time is only relevant to the reader. Does Homer change with time, with every new novel and poem written does Odysseus become a new man? Or are we the only ones who become renewed and the love of wild swans remains eternal?
Wild Swans at Coole
by W. B. Yeats
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?