Leda and the Swan

Leda and the Swan

Swan. Photo by Marko_K

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the
staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the
dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered
glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the
strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemmon dead. Being so caught up,
mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

In writing this poem, Yeats is actually re-telling a story that derives from Greek mythology. Zeus, the supreme ruler of Mount Olympus, took the form of a large swan and raped a young girl named Leda. This poem is quite vivid in its language, with Yeats providing contrasting characters. Zeus, who is powerful, takes advantage of a girl that is small and weak. (See “Notes on Leda and the Swan” page).

Back to W. B. Yeats

The Norton Anthology: British Literature. Vol. 2. Greenblatt, Stephen. New York. 2006. 1890-1947.

Encyclopedia Mythica. “Zeus”. 20 July 2005. MMVI Encyclopedia Mythica. www.pantheon.org

Marko_K. Photo swan. www.flickr.com/photos/Marko_K/172459601