“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
Are nine-and-fifty swans.”
William Butler Yeats, “The Wild Swans at Coole”
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, the most versatile and lyrical of Irish poets. On the surface, this descriptive piece may be about the beautiful birds whom he is observing, but like the swans themselves, there is an undercurrent. His observation is more about affirmation – the swans are still there and therefore there are still anchors in his life. But his relief and his appreciation of beauty is tempered by the inevitable and heart-rending understanding that there will come a day “when I awake…/ To find they have flown away”.