In Greek mythology, Leda, a Spartan queen, was so beautiful that Zeus, ruler of the gods, decided he must have her. Since immortals usually did not present themselves to humankind in their divine forms, Zeus changed himself into a great swan and in that shape ravished the helpless girl (Carey 58-59). Both William Butler Yeats and Mona Van Duyn base their poems "Leda and the Swan" and "Leda," respectively, on this story of a "mystic marriage." Yeats' focus on the sexual act itself, along with his allusions to Leda's progeny, manifest a grave and terrifying tone. While he raises Leda to a status similar to that of Mary, mother of Jesus, Van Duyn portrays Leda as a universal mother. By making both figures, Leda and Zeus, ordinary, she gives a "surprising twist" (Greiner 337) to the original myth, emphasized by her witty tone. In addition, whereas Yeats suggests that Leda has gained something from her encounter with Zeus, Van Duyn asserts that she has gained nothing, portraying women in general as primarily objects of men's satisfaction.
Yeats begins his poem by concentrating on the mere depiction of the rape scene. Words such as "beating, dark, helpless," and "terrified" provide this violent act of intrusion with negative connotations. The victim, Leda, is helpless against the power of the aggressor, Zeus, and terrified by his actions. Recalling the original Greek myth, Yeats clearly shows Leda's resistance at every step ("staggering girl," "helpless breast," "terrified vague fingers push"). Zeus' relationship with Leda parallels human interaction in general with either Satan or God. In Christianity, the prevailing religion of Yeats' time, pious men attempt to push away ...
... middle of paper ...
...f violence, and underlying religious motif. Overall, Yeats instills fear into the reader, while Van Duyn elicits an occasional laugh; however, both poems are equally effective, one for its religious message and the other for its man bashing.
Barnhart, Clarence L. and Robert K. The World Book Dictionary. Chicago:Doubleday, 1985.
Carey, Gary. Cliffs Notes on Mythology. Lincoln: C.K. Hillegass, 1973.
Greiner, Donald J. "American Poets since World War II." Dictionary of LiteraryBiographies. Detroit:Doubleday, 1980.
Heaney, Seamus. The Redress of Poetry . New York: Noonday, 1995.
Magill, Frank N. Critical Survey of Poetry. Engelwood Cliffs: Salem Press, 1982. Vol. 7
"Torah: The Five Books of Moses." Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Binary Oppositions in Leda and the Swan Yeats' "Leda and the Swan" uses the binary oppositions of the beauty and viciousness of Zeus as a swan and the helplessness and eventual strength of Leda, Yeats reveals that even the mightiest entities may suffer the consequences of their misuse of power. In "Leda and the Swan," the beauty of the swan is contrasted with the physical attributes of a swan who acts out his male animalistic power over his female prey, demonstrating the raw male and female relationships in nature.... [tags: Leda and the Swan Essays]
1801 words (5.1 pages)
- Rhetorical Figures in Leda and the Swan "Leda and the Swan," a sonnet by William Butler Yeats, describes a rape. According to Perrine, "the first quatrain describes the fierce assault and the foreplay; the second quatrain, the act of intercourse; the third part of the sestet, the sexual climax" (147). The rape that Yeats describes is no ordinary rape: it is a rape by a god. Temporarily embodied in the majestic form of a swan, Zeus, king of the gods, consummated his passion for Leda, a mortal princess (Perrine 147). The union produced two offspring: Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra, Agamemnon's wife. In recounting this "momentous rape" with "large consequences for the future," (Perri... [tags: Leda and the Swan Essays]
1337 words (3.8 pages)
- William Butler Yeats poem, Leda and the Swan and Fred Chappel’s Narcissus and Echo Poets use many different stylistic devices to capture the attention of the reader. After all, who wants to read a boring poem. Many times, it is the opening line that acts as the "hook." What better way to capture someone's attention than to incite emotion with the first word. Some poets use form to their advantage. Perhaps by writing the words out in different shapes, they will create a broader readership. Some poets use symbolism, or structure to benefit their artistic license.... [tags: Yeats Leda and the Swan Essays]
771 words (2.2 pages)
- Tyranny is forceful dominance over innocence. Poetry and other forms of literature often use symbolism as a means to provide a message. The reasons for the usage of symbolism are as varied as the symbols used. Images are not always as they appear, and when one thinks about poetry more abstractly many interpretations can result. In W.B. Yeats’s poem “Leda and the Swan,” Yeats uses the retelling of a classical myth and its connotations to symbolize English dominance over the Irish people. A swan, Zeus transformed, raping a women provides an image of sneakiness, dishonesty, and tyranny.... [tags: Poetry Analysis]
1680 words (4.8 pages)
- Violence In Leda and the swan by W.B.Yeats “Leda and the Swan” is one of the most well known poems by Yeats, although it’s controversy as to what really happens during the lines of this sonnet. There are many different ways as to how one can approach the interpretation of the poem, is it influenced by Yeats’ own life, in which case he puts all his frustration towards Maud Gonne into words, or is it a poem about power, or about politics. I have deliberately chosen not to take into consideration the political and social background of Ireland at that time.... [tags: essays research papers]
2779 words (7.9 pages)
- Analysis of Leda and the Swan. Greek mythology. Analysis of Leda and the Swan. Greek mythology has, throughout history, been the subject of much debate and interpretation. Conjuring up images of bloody battles and crumbling cities, its descriptions of the epic battle between good and evil still have remarkable relevance and continue to resonate with poignancy in our bleak, war-torn society. The poem Leda and the Swan, written by William Butler Yeats, attempts to shed new light on what is arguably one of Ancient Greece's most controversial myths.... [tags: English Literature]
1523 words (4.4 pages)
- Comparing Leda and the Swan and Leda's sister and the Geese The poem Leda and the Swan is about the rape of Leda committed by Zeus in disguise as a swan. Because of what they have done, it sets history in motion. Thus, it's fated that Helen will launch the war of a thousand ships, how Troy will fall, and Agamemnon will be murdered,...etc. The poem Leda's sister and the Geese is about where Leda went that led up to her encounter with Zeus. She then goes home whimpering and tells her mother that she's been raped by a swan and she fears she's pregnant. Her mother then makes her sister take on all of the chores while she "takes it easy." Leda and the Swan is meant to be a serious... [tags: comparison compare contrast essays]
929 words (2.7 pages)
- Poetry is a very artistic and creative way for poets to freely express themselves, whether it be love, hate, sadness, joy, and even to express themselves sexually. William Butler Yeats uses Greek mythology in "Leda and the Swan" to describe the sexual nature of the poem. Yeats uses many poetic elements and techniques to describe the sexuality of the poem. He uses elements such as language and the structure of the poem itself to portray to his readers a very vivid picture of the sensual elements of this poem.... [tags: Poetry]
442 words (1.3 pages)
- An Analysis of Robert Ji-Song Ku's Leda In Robert Ji-Song Ku's short story "Leda," the main character, Sorin, leads a life of imitation. He applies himself to his graduate studies in comparative literature a little too readily: he compares not just text to text; he also compares his life to text, to "works of literature" (Wong 281). If his life does not match that of at least one literary character on several levels of interpretation, whether emotional, physical, or mental, he changes his behavior so that it will.... [tags: Leda Essays]
1958 words (5.6 pages)
- Divine Punishment in Oedipus Rex and Leda and the Swan Divine punishment is an irreversible occurrence that creates distinct attitudes in characters. In Yeats' poem, Leda and the Swan and Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, Divine punishment plays a crucial role, and is the basis for the actions of both Oedipus and Leda. Yeats and Sophocles explore the idea of Divine punishment in various ways. Yeats shows Leda's attitude towards the experience of the rape, and the result of the rape leads to Leda's attitude towards the Gods, which then leads to many more travesties. In a similar way, Sophocles shows Oedipus' reaction to Divine punishment when Oedipus realizes that he has killed his fa... [tags: comparison compare contrast essays]
1046 words (3 pages)
- Comparing Loss in Thomas’s Fern Hill and Wordsworth’s Ode: Intimations of Immortality
- Split Sisters and Split Personalities of Goblin Market
- Comparing Man's Downfall in Second Coming and The world is too much with us
- Love in Shakespeare's Sonnet 128 and Gibran's The Prophet
- Truth in Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn and Cummings' since feeling is first
- Aging in Matthew Arnold's Growning Old and Robert Browning's Rabbi Ben Ezra