What do ‘the light tread’ and ‘the sore heart’ refer to?

In W.B. Yeats’s poem “The Wild Swans at Coole,” the phrases ‘the light tread’ and ‘the sore heart’ are part of a larger thematic exploration of contrast and reflection.

‘The Light Tread’ refers to the effortless grace and beauty of the swans that Yeats observes. Their movements on the water are smooth and elegant, unlike the heaviness that often comes with human age and sorrow. In contrast to the weight of human existence, the swans represent something ethereal and unburdened. If viewed as a metaphor for the poet’s own life, ‘the light tread’ may signify a yearning for a time when life felt lighter, or a reflection on a spiritual or artistic ideal that is pure and unencumbered.

‘The Sore Heart’ speaks to a deeper emotional pain or longing. In the context of the poem, it may signify Yeats’s personal feelings of melancholy, loss, or unfulfilled desire. As he observes the swans and reflects on the passage of time, he’s reminded of his own mortality and the transient nature of human existence. The ‘sore heart’ could be a metaphor for his personal disillusionment, weariness, or a sense of loss tied to the aging process and the changing world around him.

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