What is a brief simple summary of the poem "The Wild Swans of Coole"?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Wild Swans at Coole" is a lyric poem in which Yeats uses the beautiful imagery of the swans in their natural setting to reflect on how he himself has changed over the years.  The autumn season reinforces the idea of things drawing to a close; the season falls at the end of the year as the vitality and strength of summer wanes.  Likewise, Yeats draws a sharp contrast between the young man he was nineteen years ago and who he has now become.  He reflects bitterly:

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. (14-18)

In the swans' beauty and vitality, the speaker of the poem sees that which he yearns for himself--he wants to rekindle his own sense of passion for life.  He observes that "their hearts have not grown old," and the reader understands his melancholy.  In the final line, his regret of finding that the swans have flown away mirrors his deeper fear of realizing that love and beauty will some day abandon him as well.