The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Coole Park, 1929” is a thirty-two-line poem composed of four stanzas. William Butler Yeats wrote the poem to honor Lady Augusta Gregory (1852-1932). Lady Gregory was an important playwright and cofounder of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre; she also received many Irish writers as extended guests at her elegant estate, Coole Park, in western Ireland. There they were surrounded by great natural beauty and were free to spend uninterrupted days writing their poems and plays. Coole Park represented an oasis of calm and beauty that contrasted sharply with the poverty that existed in Ireland during the first three decades of the twentieth century.

The poem is written in the first person. Yeats meditates upon the many visits he and other writers had made to Coole Park, where the aged Lady Gregory is now dying from cancer. At first reading, “Coole Park, 1929” can be interpreted simply as an extended compliment to Lady Gregory, but at a more profound level it is also a lyrical meditation on death and dying. The inclusion of the poem in Lady Gregory’s 1931 memoir Coole was especially appropriate because in this work, which dealt largely with the architecture and gardens of Coole Park, she wrote eloquently about the intense grief she had experienced after the deaths of so many family members and friends who used to visit the estate.

In the first stanza Yeats speaks of the flight of a swallow. A swallow is a migratory bird that does not stay...

(The entire section is 585 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

For modern readers it is almost impossible to separate this poem about Coole Park from Yeats’s very famous 1917 poem “The Wild Swans at Coole,” in which he describes both the exquisite beauty of fall at Coole and the grief he felt because so many people whom he had met at Coole were now dead. The second poem in the book entitled The Wild Swans at Coole (1919) was an elegy for Lady Gregory’s only child Robert, who was killed in action in World War I. Lady Gregory never really recovered from her grief. In “Coole Park, 1929,” Yeats refers to five swallows who came to and then left Coole, but in the third stanza he writes that there were “half a dozen in formation there.” The sixth and unnamed swallow is clearly her beloved Robert.

“Coole Park, 1929” effectively contrasts the continuing presence of an aged woman with the repeated departures and returns of swallows. Yeats’s very choice of swallows may seem paradoxical because few people associate swallows with beauty. Swallows, however, mysteriously return to the same places for brief periods of time each year. The writers and artists who came to Coole found the inspiration and moral support which enabled them to reach their full creative potential. Yeats had the pleasure of returning to Coole several times between his first visit in 1896 and Lady Gregory’s death thirty-six years later. He realized that she had helped him to develop from a writer with a “timid heart” into a...

(The entire section is 429 words.)