This article will be focusing on the analysis of the poem Winter Swans by Owen Sheers.
Winter Swans by Owen Sheers
I’m going to start by reading through the poem, and then just give you a few things that you could say about this poem.
The clouds had given that all two days of rain and then a break in which we walked the waterlog, groping for breath at our feet as we skirted the lake silence and depart until the swans came and stopped us with a show of tipping in unison.
As it rolling weights down their bodies to their heads they have to themselves in the dark water. Ice bags of white feather paused before returning again.
lifeboats writing in rough weather they make for life, you said as they left porcelain over the stealing water.
I didn’t reply. But as we moved on through the afternoon light, slow stepping in the lakes, shingle and sand.
I noticed our hands that had somehow from the distance between us and folded one over the other, like a pair of wings, settling after flight.
What’s it all about? It’s a couple on a walk, who seems to have experienced an argument.
We don’t know this explicitly. But the pathetic fallacy and the gloominess of the scene seem to imply this.
They see two swans on the lake which prompts them to their own resolution for their relationship, or at least for their argument.
There’s natural imagery throughout which frequently reflects the couple and their experience of the world through the weather, and through the swans in particular.
In terms of context, and she is a contemporary poet.
These poems often contain themes such as identity and relationships, and he is influenced by the landscapes he has grown up with.
He was born in 1974 in Fiji, but lived for most of his life, as he was growing up in Wales. This particular poem is taken from shares his collection of poems, which was called skewered Hill.
The translation of spirit from its original Welsh means shattered or split, which perhaps in particular, reflects the subject matter of this poem and the separation that the two lovers face in their relationship.
Swans in the literary tradition, this ranges from Greek mythology, for example, and later on the swan, but you’ve also got the Irish poets wb Yeats his poem, The Wild Swans are cool.
And there’s a Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario, who also believed in the swan as a symbol for modernist poetry.
Much of the depiction of story and literature is related to their graceful nature, or perhaps the popular idea that swans meet for life.
Going through the first two stanzas then starting with the title, the title of the existence of cold or ice through calling the winter swans, rather than any other season or just swans in general.
The winter is a natural part of the cyclical cycle of the year, the seasons that change from spring to summer, autumn so winter.
So it’s possible that the idea of winter swans offers some hope of resolution or some hope of upcoming spring, or it could simply be reflecting at the end of a relationship.
The clouds have given their all two days of rain and then a break in which we walked.
The poem immediately starts with pathetic fallacy as a sympathetic background.
This is not a joyful summer’s day for a couple walking. This is a gloomy and relentless sense of rain.
The words and the language in this stanza is mostly monosyllabic, which means the words are mostly made up of one syllable. In the first couple of sentences.
I think given might be the only exception in the first stanza, which creates quite applauding and dulled rhythms, the poem.
In addition, there’s a dash at the end of the first line, which you can call zero episodes of breaking the pace.
And suggesting as a sense of ending or finality, the clouds have given everything they’ve got, and it’s over, there’s been two days of rain.
And perhaps then there’s a break, which could indicate a temporary relief from the fighting from the storm, the metaphorical storm, as well as the physical storm, the line length in this stanza, but indeed, almost all the way through are quite irregular.
So you can see the first and third lines are shorter than the second line. This creates a a natural speaking pattern, and indicates that she has written his poem in reverse.
So it doesn’t have any particular unified rhyme scheme at the end of the lines, the irregularity of the structure could reflect the couple’s relationship to in the second stanza, you’ve got the waterlogged Earth gasping for breath at our feet as we skirted the lake silence and depart.
So the metaphor gulping for breath and the waterlogged earth which has been totally drenched with water, and suggests a an almost overpowering sense of starvation and suffering, they can’t quite catch their breath, they can’t get a break.
They can’t quite say almost what they want to say could reflect the sound of crying as well from someone who is ferociously sobbing.
The metaphor reflects their relationship. And now they can’t seem to communicate the can’t seem to get their words.
This is supported by the subordinate clause, silent and apart, and the commas they’re separating the subordinate clause from the rest of the sentence potentially reflecting the tension between the couple, causing you to pause slightly as you read those three words silent and depart.
Furthermore, you could look at the word skirted, which could suggest that you’re tentatively going around the edge of something, almost as if the couple are avoiding a difficult subject if there is if they don’t want to talk about something.
Throughout the poem, you have the inclusive pronouns in almost every stanza. For example, in the first stanza, you’ve got we walked, and in the second stanza, you’ve got our feet.
And the effect of this inclusive pronoun something that makes the reader feel included is it gives it an anecdotal feel, in my view, and I think it makes it sound more personal to the next two stanzas.
You’ve got quite abrupt on john moments between the second stanza and the third stanza between the worlds apart and until, and it emphasizes the swan’s engines.
I think it gives you the sense that something is changing in the poem until the swans came and stopped us, with a show of tipping in unison.
So it’s almost as if the swans are putting on a display for the couple.
The swans are united, in contrast to the couple who are silent and apart.
So I like quite like that interesting use of contrast, and the similarly conveys the graceful movement of the swan, as if they’re rolling weights down their bodies to their heads.
They have themselves in the dark water, icebergs of white feather paused before returning again, like boats writing in rough weather. So the watery metaphors continue.
With the idea of them having themselves it’s that quite common idea of you having a better half or another half within a couple suggesting that these two these ones are in somehow incomplete without each other. and, by extension, the couple are incomplete without each other.
They are separate parts of one whole.
The wintry and the cold imagery continues with the icebergs of a white feather, as a metaphor.
But if you think about icebergs and the science behind them, it could also imply hidden meaning and depth to in the idea that two thirds of an iceberg is below the water surface, and only a third is visible above it.
The similarly like boats writing in rough weather, I think shows the potential for a record reconciliation within the couple implies that they can weather the storm they can ride out the storm.
And like boats writing in rough weather is a simile suggesting that they will become and that they will be able to introduce the possibility of resolution and hope.
The final slide then is they meet for life.
He said as they left porcelain over the stealing water. I didn’t reply. But as we moved on through the afternoon, lights slow stepping in the lakes shingles, and I noticed our hands that somehow swam the distance between us and folded one over the other like a pair of wings, settling after flight.
So it’s all one sentence, the last three stanzas.
The direct speech that comes in at the top of that slide there suggests the first sense of story and audience in the poem. So it’s the only piece of direct speech and the narrator in this poem doesn’t reply.
And it tells the audience about that popular belief about swans meeting for life. And they are like the boats that right in rough whether they are porcelain over the sterling water.
So even the water is coming as we continue through the poem. Porcelain is very delicate, very smooth. So the swans and the water and nature, as a couple of beginnings communicate, and as they are beginning to resolve the differences, they seem to be coming together and nature seems to be smoothing and stealing too. I didn’t reply.
But as we moved on to the afternoon lights, and I like the idea of have moved on, being in a sense metaphorical as well as then physically moving on.
It gives you a sense of hope that the end of the poem, slow stepping in the lakes, shingle and sand, I think is really soft, soothing, sibilant, gentle repetition of the sounds.
And combined with the essence in the poem, which is similar vowel sounds being used together.
So you’ve got examples, that perhaps in show and rolling, and you’ve also got white and writing in rough weather as well as light. And you’ve also got you and through in the stands are at the top of the page there.
And I think the accidents and the siblings together gives it quite a gentle tone. I like the idea that in the penultimate stanza, where the narrator says, I noticed our hands that had somehow swim the distance between us, it’s continuing the connection with the swans.
But there’s also a sense of inevitability and wonder that actually he’s noticing the hands moving together.
And the subordinate was somehow suggested they’re not quite sure how this relationship has been resolved. But somehow they’re managing to make up their differences and folded one over the other like a pair of wings settling after the flight.
The fact that the poem has been written intersects up until this point, that’s three lines stanzas and the final stanza is a couplet as really significant.
And thematically, it reminds the reader of the swans, but the coupler also reminds you that the couple are resolving the differences.
They are finally a couple again if you want to look at it like that, but it also reflects the Shakespearean tradition where Shakespeare would finish his acts his plays important lines with rhyming couplets.
In this case, it doesn’t rhyme. But a couple is quite significant in marking the end of an act or the end of something important