Analysis Of Leda And The Swan

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Throughout the ages, Greek myths have become a popular subject and have been reimagined numerous times through various medias including art and literature. Each generation brings forth a new perspective on these ancient tales, providing a new glimpse into the bygone civilization. During the 1920s, both William Butler Yeats and H.D (Hilda Doolittle) wrote poems about women in Greek mythology, each choosing a notable figure who contributed to the fall of Troy. In “Leda and the Swan,” Yeats explains a famous Greek myth, where Leda is raped by Zeus in the form of a massive swan. This copulation led to the conception of Helen, who history deems as the beauty who launched a thousand ships in the Trojan War. In his sonnet, Yeats observes how the consequences …show more content…
Adjectives such as staggering, helpless, and terrified, describes her vulnerability as she is suddenly overpowered (2-5).In the second stanza, Yeats poses the question: “How can those terrified vague fingers push/the feathered glory from her loosening thighs?”(4-5). This query emphasis Leda’s inability to prevent the rape. A contradiction is presented through the description of the swan’s forceful hold on her nape and the erotic caress of her thighs (2-4). The contrast of the offensive nature of the sexual assault and the beautiful, sensual language employed by Yeats, amplifies the horror. Yeats uses the meticulous placement of the word engenders, which is defined as the male parent begets in order to create two meanings (OED 1). The rape results in the literal impregnation of Leda, which is in reference to her daughter, Helen of Troy. Once this allusion is recognized, he outlines the consequences of the assault: “the broken wall, the burning roof and tower/And Agamemnon dead” (11-12). A metaphorical impregnation of the Trojan War is depicted in these lines since Leda births the reason for the bloodiest conflict known in Greek …show more content…
The story of Helen begins with the rape of Leda; without one, there would not be the other. Shared poetic techniques strengthen the parallels of the two works. The imagery of white in seen in the white rush of Leda and the white face of Helen (Yeats 7; H.D 2). The color represents the purity taken from Leda; while in Helen, it refers to the coldness of marble and death. Irony layers both poems since their myths are defined by the sexual immorality of the rape and the affair. Likewise, the description of each woman’s body parts were featured. Yeats chose to detail Leda’s breasts and thighs, which are more sexual in nature.(2-4) H.D refers to Helen’s famed face and her hands, which denote decision and purpose (2-4).There is also a sense of passiveness surrounding both women. The juxtaposition of verbs reveals the active force of the swan who engenders and holds while Leda is passively caressed, caught, and mastered. (2-9). Helen, similarly, becomes a stoic effigy, “where she stands” unmoving beneath Greece’s animosity

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