"Winter Swans" is a poem by contemporary British poet Owen Sheers. The premise of the poem is relatively straightforward: a couple who are having difficulties in their relationship go for a walk. It's been raining for days, seemingly reflecting the mood between the two people. While on their walk, the couple encounter some swans on a lake. The beauty and majesty of these swans gently remind the couple of the importance of their love, and by the poem's close, they are holding hands. Sheers's poems are often set in similar natural environments, and he is the anthologist behind A Poet's Guide to Britain—which groups together other nature poems along with some based in cities as well.
The clouds had ...
... at our feet
as we skirted ...
... tipping in unison.
As if rolling ...
... in rough weather.
'They mate for ...
... the stilling water.
I didn't reply ...
... distance between us
and folded, one ...
... settling after flight.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
An Interview with Owen Sheers — Owen Sheers answers question in a piece produced by the Welsh Joint Education Committee.
"The Wild Swans at Coole," by W.B. Yeats — A poem that features swans by one of the 20th century's most famous Irish poets, William Butler Yeats.
More Poems by Sheers — A valuable resource containing other poems by Sheers—and recordings.
Swans Themselves — A BBC article that looks at the history—and some of the myths—relating to swans.
"Why The Swan," by Andrew Lambeth — Another contemporary poem in which swans play an important role.
1The clouds had given their all -
2two days of rain and then a break
3in which we walked,
4the waterlogged earth
5gulping for breath at our feet
6as we skirted the lake, silent and apart,
7until the swans came and stopped us
8with a show of tipping in unison.
9As if rolling weights down their bodies to their heads
10they halved themselves in the dark water,
11icebergs of white feather, paused before returning again
12like boats righting in rough weather.
13'They mate for life' you said as they left,
14porcelain over the stilling water. I didn't reply
15but as we moved on through the afternoon light,
16slow-stepping in the lake's shingle and sand,
17I noticed our hands, that had, somehow,
18swum the distance between us
19and folded, one over the other,
20like a pair of wings settling after flight.