Analysis of Yeats' Poem Leda and the Swan

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Leda and the Swan

Immediately, the poem jumps right into the task at hand. Zeus, in the form of a swan, is raping the young girl, Leda. The “sudden blow” could be interpreted as sexual penetration, since after the blow many sexual actions take place. The line, “Her thighs caressed/By the dark webs” is both soft and evil. “Caress” is a peaceful movement that usually describes a loving motion. However, right after this gentle word is used, Yeats changes the mood by adding Zeus’s “dark webs.” In the first stanza, the words “staggering” and “helpless” emphasize how Leda is defenseless against Zeus and can do nothing to stop him. “How could those terrified vague fingers push the feathered glory” expresses how there is no hope in trying to push him off. She is overwhelmed with shock over the situation she is in and cannot fight him. As if she is giving up, her “thighs loosen.” She cannot help but feel his “strange heart beating.” Even though she is getting raped, she notices how she can feel the beat of his heart because their bodies are pushed together. Zeus’s body “shudders” and he impregnates her. The “broken wall” may signify her virginity being “broken.” They were “so caught up” in their minds. Zeus wanting to finish and Leda watching this nightmare unfold. “The indifferent beak let her drop” once he was done with her. He had no care in the world about causing this girl so much pain. He was finished and “dropped her like trash on the side of the road. His sexual pleasure was over, so there was no use for her anymore. The interesting thing about this poem is how Yeats describes this horrific even with such beauty. He uses words like “glory,” “great wings,” and “caress” to help readers visualize everything that is happening. Everyone knows Zeus is a powerful god, but in this he is weak. A swan is a delicate animal that would never be used to illustrate Zeus. However, his feeble transformation is amusing because now him and Leda have equal power....
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