Leda and the Swan

Leda and the Swan

·         Petrarchan sonnet – long octave (represents length of rave), volta and then sestet.

·         Ends with a question – the conclusion is ambiguous

·         Mythology

o   Zeus descends from heaven to **** leda. The child from this sexual act goes on to lead the Trojan war. Yeats uses this mythical moment as basis for reflection on empires and history. Creates pity for the victim (symbol of Ireland?) meditation on the powerful and the weak

o   Yeats rewrites the Greek myth of Zeus and Leda to comment on fate and historical inevitability: Zeus disguises himself as a swan to **** the unsuspecting Leda. In this poem, the bird is fearsome and destructive, and it possesses a divine power that violates Leda and initiates the dire consequences of war and devastation depicted in the final lines. Even though Yeats clearly states that the swan is the god Zeus, he also emphasizes the physicality of the swan: the beating wings, the dark webbed feet, the long neck and beak. Through this description of its physical characteristics, the swan becomes a violent divine force. By rendering a well-known poetic symbol as violent and terrifying rather than idealized and beautiful, Yeats manipulates poetic conventions, an act of literary modernism, and adds to


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