The Wild Swans at Coole

by William Butler Yeats

Start Free Trial

Who did Yeats dedicate The Wild Swans at Coole to?

Quick answer:

The collection The Wild Swans at Coole by William Butler Yeats is dedicated to Major Robert Gregory, a pilot who died in Italy during World War I and the son of Yeats's friend Lady Gregory. Two poems in honor of Major Gregory appear in the collection right after the title poem.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There is no mention of a dedication in the poem "The Wild Swans at Coole" by William Butler Yeats and no formal dedication page in the collection of the same name. However, critics and historians agree that the book The Wild Swans at Coole, published first in 1917 and then with additional poems in 1919, is dedicated to Major Robert Gregory, the son of Yeats's friend Lady Gregory. Yeats wrote four poems about Major Gregory; the most famous of these appear just after "The Wild Swans at Coole" in the collection. These are "In Memory of Major Robert Gregory" and "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death."

Major Robert Gregory was a pilot who flew during World War I with the Royal Flying Corps. When he joined up, he was already 34 years old and had three children. He flew several successful missions before dying in Italy when he was 36 years old. The circumstances of his death were never definitively established, but it was thought that he either met with a flying accident or was shot down by friendly fire.

Major Gregory's mother, Lady Gregory, was immensely important to Yeats and to his career. For years, he spent his summers at Lady Gregory's estate at Coole in Ireland, and it was there he observed the flight of the swans that he describes so eloquently in "The Wild Swans at Coole." Lady Gregory was one of the directors of the Irish National Theater and wrote numerous plays that appeared on its stage.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial