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William Butler Yeats

(13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939 / County Dublin / Ireland)

Leda And The Swan


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
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

Submitted: Tuesday, May 15, 2001

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  • Andrew Hoellering (12/26/2009 6:00:00 AM)

    ‘A sudden blow’ indicates that this is a rape but what follows the apt choice of ‘caressed’ is a superbly ambiguous form of lovemaking.
    ‘The feathery glory from her loosening thighs’ and ‘the strange heart beating where it lies’ are superb examples of the power of art to transmute the imaginary into the real, as is the entire poem.
    I trust this poem has been translated, not just into Persian, but into EVERY language! (Report) Reply

  • Rosa Jamali (12/23/2008 4:26:00 PM)

    The extraordinary image of myth. The poem should be studied as a turning point in putting myths into words through the connotations and descriptions which is rare in the history of poetry.
    Thanks to Yeats who is a master of use of myths in poetry...
    And I've translated the poem into Persian, ..
    http: //www.rosajamali.com/article.aspx? id=58 (Report) Reply

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