Poetry Essay

How does Owen Sheers use language, form and structure to explore ideas about separation and division in ‘Winter Swans’? The Poem ‘Winter Swans’ seems to convey a strong theme of natural love. The poem begins with setting a scene of a peaceful day, where nature seems to be stilled after the torrential weather that is referred to in the first line through ‘The clouds had given their all.’ It goes on to say that there was then a ‘break’, and throughout the poem the poet uses words such as ‘silent’ and ‘rolling’, ‘stilling’ and ‘slow-stepping’ to capture this scene of peace and serenity, as if the world was resting after being thrashed about by a storm.

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With the idea of a natural love, there comes the confusion and the inartificial knowledge that love is not materialistic, a feeling and something that can not be brought on by force. Through all natural love stories come feelings of hurt and division. A separation that brings the subjects closer and strengthens the emotion. Sheers uses the theme of leaving, and then returning, or rage, and then peace, or the unknown, and then the known to reoccur throughout the poem, eventually strengthening the love, which could be argued as the main emotion of the poem. The poet also uses imagery such as ‘lakes and ‘swans’, to symbolise the peacefulness, and also to symbolise love. You notice words that show the subject is not alone, with ‘we’ and ‘our’.

These words and also the motion of the swans, the lake, and the peacefulness are foreshadowing that the poem will take a turning onto love that is more literate. However I don’t think that the poems theme is so much about love in particular, but about a natural love, a natural pull that brings two people together even after hard times. Sheer’s uses Swans as a metaphor of love, the way swans will smoothly dip in and out of the water, and how they are known to curve towards and away from each other as if dancing on ice. They are the perfect example to show the way love will draw away and then come back. He uses vocabulary ranging from ‘silent’ and ‘rolling’ to ‘righting’ and ‘rough’ to show the separation and how quickly the emotions get confused, and how quickly compassion will turn into anger, and vice versa. The poem begins referring to this in the first stanza with weather, as raging storm.

And then a ‘break’. The poet then adds on ‘in which we walked’, showing possibly that the subject and whoever they are with also went through a hard time, but are now peaceful along with the nature. In the fourth stanza it describes the swans ‘halving themselves’ in the ‘dark water’, to portray a hard time, but then ‘returning again like boats righting in rough weather’ It then moves onto the poems only piece of speech, “they mate for life.” Which rounds off the conclusion of the theme of the poem, that although there are hard times, they will always be pulled back together. The poem then shows this also applies for the people, as at the beginning of the poem it describes them as being ‘silent and apart’, but right at the end it shows them holding hands, symbolising how they are together. The poem’s theme is concluded with comparing them to a ‘pair of wings settling after flight’, to show that finally, the emotion has strengthened, and they can settle after the confusion and separation.

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