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.
The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
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,
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
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,
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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William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was an Irish poet from an artistic family; his work was greatly influenced by his country's beauty, folklore, and politics. Considered one of the most significant figures in 20th century literature, Yeats had a lifelong fascination with mysticism and was involved with art and theatre as well as poetry. At 24, he met the great love of his life, Maud Gonne; though she inspired many poems and received multiple proposals from the poet, she married another man and, even after her husband was killed in battle, refused to marry Yeats. He ultimately married a much younger woman and, though the marriage was considered a happy one, Yeats was involved with a number of other women; he claimed it fueled his creative output.
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