As with Tennyson and Browning, Eliot and Yeats were long considered a pair of poets who best represented their age. As with Browning, Yeats now is considered far less important than his more enduring contemporary. This judgment is largely true, but nevertheless Yeats like Browning was a considerable writer and well deserves to be read even now.
Though more orthodox than Eliot in style and subject matter, Yeats too had a wide range. Yet many of his best poems deal with the subject of age and transition. The beautiful Wild Swans at Coole exemplifies the manner in which he transits from scenic description to cognizance of the years passing.
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,
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?