Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
“Coole Park, 1929” evokes the complex nature of artistic creation. For writers such as Yeats and Synge, who lived through traumatic periods in Irish history, the tranquillity at Coole and the firm but gentle guidance that they received from Lady Gregory enabled them to produce poems and plays that continue to fascinate readers long after their deaths (Synge in 1909 and Yeats in 1939). Certain “swallows,” such as Yeats, were privileged to return to Coole many times because these lives were long. Others, such as Synge and Hugh Lane, died at relatively young ages. Their artistic and literary creations, however, survived them.
In the final stanza of the poem, Yeats calls his reader “traveller, scholar, poet.” All three are richly evocative terms that lead one to appreciate the complex nature of the creative and aesthetic experiences. People travel from one place to another, but they also undertake voyages of personal discovery. (Yeats does not need to add that everyone also travels toward death.) All thoughtful people are scholars in the sense that they reflect on the meaning of the past in their lives and strive to communicate their insights to others. The word “poet” derives from the Greek word “to create,” and all people are thus poets because they attempt to create meaning in their lives.
Coole Park itself was demolished in 1941, nine years after Lady Gregory’s death. Even the formal gardens no longer exist; the new owners decided to sell the land so that many modest houses could be built there. The beautiful architecture and natural beauty of Coole Park can, however, still be appreciated by readers of Yeats’s poetry and Lady Gregory’s memoir Coole. “Coole Park, 1929” continues to touch readers because it explores the importance of memory and friendship. When he wrote this poem in 1928, Yeats was sixty-three years old and had already survived many of his closest friends. Lady Gregory had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1923, and her two operations had not been successful. It was obvious to her close friends that she was dying. The poem remains an eloquent meditation on the meanings of creativity, memory, and friendships.