The Sexual Encounter Of Zeus And The Swan Essay

985 Words Nov 13th, 2014 4 Pages
The sexual encounter of Zeus and Leda are clearly depicted in the poems “Leda and the Swan”, by W. B. Yeats, and “Leda” by Hilda Doolittle. Both works portray the conception of Helen of Troy, which is brought about by the influence of a higher power; however, each offers a very unique perspective. Yeats’ “Leda and the Swan” suggest that our sexual acts are cold and only inspired by self-interest, while Doolittle’s “Leda” shows the possibility of the sexual act as mutually beneficial. These differences between the works can be seen in their treatments of the event.
In Yeats’ poem, Leda enters the union without consent, or enthusiasm. Leda is subdued physically in a brutal rape. She is struck with “A sudden blow” (Yeats 1), and her “terrified fingers” (5) cannot push the swan away. Here, the sexual act goes completely against the will of Leda. She is overpowered physically and has no choice except to submit to the more powerful male. To fight against this attack is to oppose the very “brute blood of the air” (13), as if all her surroundings have conspired to overcome her defenses. Yeats’ character has no say when it comes to sex, and derives no joy out of the experience.
In Doolittle’s “Leda,” the feminine lily, which represents Leda, welcomes the sexual act, and she submits willingly to the swan. The calming imagery suggests that she is at peace with her position: “the gold day-lily / outspreads and rests/ beneath soft fluttering / of red swan wings” (Doolittle…

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