"... and times are done..."
Yeats often drew inspiration from ancient Celtic stories, which reinvigorated interest in Irish mythology. His rich and beautiful poetry is layered with multiple meanings, but demonstrates an undeniable passion and yearning for harmony, beauty and spiritual ascendance.
In the original story, Aengus had a vision of a lovely maiden named Caer and spends many years lovesick in search of her. He finally finds her on the edge of a lake, but discovers that she is imprisoned by an enchantment that transforms her into a swan every other year. Without hesitation, Aengus jumps into the lake, choosing to be transformed into a swan as well rather than be parted.
In Yeats’ poem, Aengus has not yet found his love. He is “old with wandering.” And although he has only glimpsed her once in a vision, he's committed to wandering forever in search of her. Perhaps Aengus’ yearning represents the yearning of not only lovers, but philosophers and poets as well - all all of whom strive toward an elusive vision of the sublime.
View the Yeats print here.