The Themes Of Leda And The Swan By Seamus Heaney

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In tracing how William Butler Yeats influenced Seamus Heaney, it is significant to note similarities in their backgrounds. Yeats was intensely mindful of his role as a national poet/politician representing all Irish. Heaney also evolved into a definitive poet for the entire island. Both transitioned from being primarily Irish poets to world poets as evidenced by their winning of individual Nobel prizes seventy years apart. Like Yeats, Heaney was recognized globally, as likely to lecture at Harvard as to read at Dublin City University. British colonization ravaged both Yeats’s and Heaney’s Ireland. Both poets acknowledge the violence either in the Irish Civil War or in the Troubles, Northern Ireland’s nationalist guerrilla war fought in the …show more content…
Yeats uses a Petrarchan sonnet form and switches midway to the English form, possibly to highlight not only corrupted love, but also to point to British involvement. Leda and the Swan is, except for the broken eleventh line and the slant rhymes, a formal--albeit mixed--sonnet. Ironically, Heaney uses the forms of two English sonnets to describe the debasement of Ireland. Parts I and II of Act of Union are cause and effect sonnets using slant rhyme. Heaney’s sporadic upheavals of the orthodox meter also suggest some sort of perversion of accepted function. In both cases, to do violence to the form is to do violence to the content. Both poems open with startling rhythm; Yeats with a “sudden blow” and Heaney with a “first movement, a pulse.” There is a divergence in that Leda is held helpless with “her nape caught in his bill” while Ireland “neither cajoles or ignores.” The reactions to violation for each female persona differ. Yeats then mentions the burning of Troy, which directly follows the birth of Leda’s by-blows from the rape. Heaney also refers to the “obstinate fifth column” whose “fists” are “cocked” at his sire and names Northern Ireland as England’s “ignorant” “legacy.” Heaney further presupposes, like Britain, that no peace agreement will “salve completely” the brutality of British colonization. Britain also concedes that Ireland has not abdicated all of her power as her “conquest is a lie” considering her “half-independent shores.” He has reason to be wary of the rebellious offspring that is Northern Ireland. The apparent nonviolent intercourse presented in the first sonnet persuasively contrasts to the depredation exposed in the second, where an indelibly affected Ireland remains at the poem’s end. This comparison generates an ambivalent attitude concerning the British

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