William Butler Yeats

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

Leda And The Swan

Poem by William Butler Yeats

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?

Form: Sonnet

Comments about Leda And The Swan by William Butler Yeats

  • Unnikrishnan E S (10/29/2019 2:36:00 AM)

    The reference to “Agamemnon Dead” is interesting. Agamemnon was regarded as the highest type of a powerful monarch, and in Sparta he was worshipped under the title of Zeus Agamemnon.
    Agamemnon commanded the Greek army in the Trojan War. The war was caused by abduction of Helen, wife of Agamemnon’s brother Menelaus by Paris. On his return, he was killed by his wife Clytemnestra or her lover Aegisthus.

    So much about Agamemnon Dead.(Report)Reply

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  • Unnikrishnan E S (10/29/2019 1:29:00 AM)

    Part 2

    But the painting by Leonardo Da Vinci depicts a different story of extreme passionate love between Leda Zeus. I have opted this version in my poem “The Swan And Me”. May I invite you, readers, to read this poem. Thank you.(Report)Reply

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  • Unnikrishnan E S (10/29/2019 1:28:00 AM)

    The story of 'Leda and the Swan' from Greek myth. 'Leda and the Swan'', is also the subject of Paintings by Michaelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci and many other gifted artists.
    There are many versions of this story.

    There is a version that Zeus raped Leda taking the shape of Swan. This was the version adopted by Michaelangelo in his painting and Yeats in this poem.


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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

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  • Rosa JamaliRosa 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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Read poems about / on: girl, power, dark, heart

Poem Submitted: Tuesday, May 15, 2001