William Butler Yeats: Analysis Of Leda And The Swab

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Leda and the Swan is a book by William Butler Yeats is a poem that is created with 3 stanza with a total of 14 lines. The poem is about a Greek myth where the god Zues takes the disguise as a swan to seduce or rape a woman named Leda. Leda being the mother of Hellen of Troy, the women who is credited with the beginning of the Trojan War as a result of this brutality. This poem captures a moment and the plot where the god Zues disguised as a swan overwhelms and attacks a helpless young woman.

The author does not waste any time, Yeats starting with the instance of aggression where he shows the readers the horror of this poem. Within the first stanza of “Leda and the Swan”, Yeats defines Ledas powerlessness and proceeds to emphasize her vulnerability through his wording. Adjectives such as staggering and helpless, that describes her vulnerability as she is suddenly overpowered (Yeats lines 2-5). On line 1 stanza 1, “ A sudden blow: the great wings beating still above the staggering girl”(Yeats). A great Swan comes from above and hits Leda with its great large wings and knocking her down. The mighty great Zeus disguised as a swan has transformed to his true form and has taken Leda into captivity. That Leda noticed what was touching her thighs, which was the swans feet, “her thighs caressed” (Yeats line 2). The “dark webs, her nape caught in his bill holds her helpless breast upon his breast” (Yeats 3-4). Webs, which are referred to the webbed feet of the swan, with his bill he grabs her neck and pressed himself against her stomach. That the author makes it clear that Zeus is showing and abusing his power as a god.

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In the second stanza, Yeats poses two questions, “How can those terrified vague fingers push the feathered glory from her loosening thighs?”(Yeats lines 5-6). The first question shows the stresses of the failure of Leda to avoid the attack. On the other hand it implies that she had no choice and couldn’t escape. “ and how can body, laid in that white rush, but feel the strange heart beating where it is” (Yeats Lines 7-8). That Leda feels the beating of the swans heart against her, where the swans heart is showing a mysterious tone (diction). The comparison between the offensive nature of sex and the lovely, sexual langauge where Yeats emplys and shows the horror of the poem.

In the third stanza, Yeats talks about the rape that resulted in Ledas physical impregnation, “ a shudder in the loins engenders there” (Yeats line 9). The swan “shudder” meaning the swan or leda had an ejaculation. Which the swan makes a human form inside of Leda, making her pregnant. On the acknowledgement of this allusion. He explains the implication of the assault, “the broken wall, the burning roof and tower” ( Yeats lines 10-11). Within these lines, a motif impregnation of the Trojan War. That “burning roof and tower” implicates the burning of troy. Represented as Leda is the birthplace of the start of the bloodiest war. There is caesura on line 11-10, that creates a pause on the poem and helps transition to a different topic, that was very dramatic. That,“ and Agamemnon dead”, truly say that Leda was the apparent reason why the city is burning and why the great king Agamemnon is dead.

On line 13, the poem refers to the swan by the “brute blood”(Yeats line 13). The expression “ brute of the air” has a particular meaning as a metaphor, as the air was a living being with its own blood. That this took place while the bird (swan) was flying. A question was brought up on the last 2 lines, “did she put on his knowledge with his power” (Yeats line 14). Essentially the swan (Zues) asked Leda if she was aware of the knowledge with his power. Last line, “before the indifferent beak could let her drop” (Yeats line 15). That words on that last line that let her be released and “let her drop” back to the earth’s ground, having the swan (Zues) accomplish his goal.

The first nine lines of “Leda and the Swan” describes Ledas viewpoint on the act of rape. The poem’s last five lines narrates the consequences of the act, both for humanity and for Ledas personality. This poem has three stanzas and is broken into two parts by line 11, which shows a caesura. Yeats makes use of three stanzas to distinguish the poems’ internal divisions. Line 11 is broken up. The swan symbolizes the unification of the lower and higher spirits. Zues is a representation of an absolute truth and of the pointless cycles of existence. Fate and free will are key themes of the poem, beacause the rape of Leda was a act with dire consequnece for the people during the Trojan War. Leda may have understood the consequnece of her rape by the god Zues, the poem indicates he may have possessed some of the knowlege and power of Zues on line 14, but she was powerles to prevent what happend.

In conclusion, the poem “Leda and the Swan” is a terrifying dark tone that sets a very traumatic mood. Although it was a poem with very little settings, we still got a lot of images and events that happened throughout the poem. This poem is a prime example of how women go through gender roles. Zues thought that just because he was the ruler of all gods, he justified Leda and took control on what shouldn’t have happened. That he did not show any guilt or remorse because he felt overpowered. Zues could care less on what he has done, because at the end of all events he got what he desired. Throughout this whole experience for Leda, she still has yet to know that Zues was the one that objectified her. After reading this poem, there’s still a question that I still have about the ending and what could’ve happened after. Leda and the Swan have some of the most strong and graphic pictures and are rich with historical context. 


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