Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Wild Trees at Coole

Coole Park is remembered in W. B. Yeats' poem "The Wild Swans at Coole," which, if you don't mind me saying, has a lot to do about trees too. Swans. Sheesh.

I had the pleasure of visiting Coole in 1997 while at the International Yeats Summer School in Sligo, and I must say that park is absolutely magical. I don't know what it is about Ireland, but I did feel a strange mystical presence about this island. Coole park is no exception. The woods are quiet and contemplative, perhaps still echoing the murmurings of the poets of the Celtic Twilight hosted by Lady Gregory (on whose estate the park is located).

The most unique tree, however, is the "autograph tree," on which now famous writers, including Yeats, carved their initials when visiting the park. The tree has grown, and many of the autographs are warped, so the caretakers have erected a plaque with the list of those who left a mark on this tree's bark (thus, the numbers).


From 1. The Wild Swans at Coole

THE TREES are in their autumn beauty, 
The woodland paths are dry, 
Under the October twilight the water 
Mirrors a still sky; 
Upon the brimming water among the stones         5
Are nine and fifty swans. 
The nineteenth Autumn has come upon me 
Since I first made my count; 
I saw, before I had well finished, 
All suddenly mount  10
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings 
Upon their clamorous wings. 
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures, 
And now my heart is sore. 
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,  15
The first time on this shore, 
The bell-beat of their wings above my head, 
Trod with a lighter tread. 
Unwearied still, lover by lover, 
They paddle in the cold,  20
Companionable streams or climb the air; 
Their hearts have not grown old; 
Passion or conquest, wander where they will, 
Attend upon them still. 
But now they drift on the still water  25
Mysterious, beautiful; 
Among what rushes will they build, 
By what lake’s edge or pool 
Delight men’s eyes, when I awake some day 
To find they have flown away?

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