"After Many A Summer Dies The Swan"

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Last Updated on April 19, 2016, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 169

Context: This poem is Tennyson's version of the story of Tithonus and Eos from Greek myth. Eos, goddess of the dawn, was asked by the mortal, Tithonus, to grant him immortality. This wish she granted, but she forgot to give him perpetual youth, so that he aged steadily but could not die. In this poem Tithonus pleads to Eos for death, since he has grown so withered and decayed that life is torture for him. He regrets that he ever wanted to avoid death, the natural fate of all men; he looks upon "the homes/ Of happy men that have the power to die,/ And grassy barrows of the happier dead." Natural decay and death have become his greatest desires. Things and men and even the beautiful and stately swan are relieved of existence by death.

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The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapors weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.

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"The Gods Themselves Cannot Recall Their Gifts"