Depictions of Leda and the Swan
Leda felt a sudden blow, with the “great wings” of the swan still beating above her. (Yeats) Leda and the Swan is a story in art from Greek mythology. The story of Leda being raped and seduced by Zeus in the form of a swan has been retold in many ways. However, there are many similarities to this story. Peter Paul Ruben displayed a different idea in his painting from the idea in the poem written by William Butler Yeats. In “Leda and the Swan” there are many similarities portrayed, although the executions differ. In each presentation there is a swan with great wings. Leda is nakedly present and the swan is atop her committing rape. Each work displays a provocative opinion of an explicit crime that is taking place. William Butler Yeats’ poem combines words indicating powerful action that indicates a struggle. Yeats explains the position of the swan’s bill grips Leda’s neck. Her “terrified vague fingers” work in efforts to resist the swan. This rape foreshadows the future events of the burning tower and the death of Agamemnon. The painting by Peter Paul Ruben shows the swan’s bill in Leda’s mouth. The placement of the bill would appear to muffle Leda during the rape. Her body is limp and unresisting, which may suggest that the act was consensual. In Ruben’s painting there is an absence of the future events. I think “Leda and the Swan” is a creation of vulgarity. It announces an idea of bestiality. I believe that the painting and the poem are just as degrading as modern day porn.
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