Leda In Greek mythology, Leda was daughter of the Aetolian king Thestius, and wife of the king Tyndareus, of Sparta. Her myth gave rise to the popular motif in Renaissance and later art of Leda and the Swan. She was the mother of Helen of Troy, Clytemnestra, and Castor and Pollux. Leda was admired by Zeus, who seduced her in the guise of a swan. As a swan, Zeus fell into her arms for protection from a pursuing eagle. Their consummation, on the same night as Leda lay with her husband Tyndareus, resulted in two eggs from which hatched Helen (later known as the beautiful "Helen of Troy"), Clytemnestra, and Castor and Pollux. Which children are the progeny of Tyndareus, the mortal king, and which are of Zeus, and are thus half-immortal, is not consistent among accounts, nor is which child hatched from which egg. The split is almost always half mortal, half divine, although the pairings do not always reflect the children's heritage pairings. Castor and Pollux are sometimes both mortal, sometimes both divine. One consistent point is that if only one of them is immortal, it is Pollux. It is also always stated that Helen is the daughter of Zeus.
Read the Poem http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zblFUbFys vw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zblFUbFys vw
Reception of the Poem “Leda and the Swan” is a violent, sexually explicit poem that has all of the lyricism and complexity of Yeats’s later work, with its plain diction, rhythmic vigour, and allusions to mystical ideas about the universe, the relationship of human and divine, and the cycles of history. It can be seen as a poem about the way a single event is to be understood as part of a larger scheme; the result of the god’s assault on Leda is the birth of Helen of Troy, the subsequent destruction of early Greek civilization, and the beginning of the modern era. It has also been suggested that the poem, which was first written (and later revised in this present form) during the Irish Civil War of 1922–1923, is intended to draw attention to the violence that beset Yeats’s homeland during that time.
First glance at the Language Note down how Yeats’ choice of verbs and adjectives help to create a contrast between Zeus and Leda. Yeats combines words indicating powerful action: “sudden blow”, “beating”, “staggering”, “shudder”, “mastered”, “burning” with adjectives and descriptive words that indicate Leda’s weakness and helplessness: “caressed”, “helpless”, “terrified”, “vague”, “loosening” This increases the sensory impact of the poem.
How is the Poem structured? “Leda and the Swan” is a sonnet, a traditional fourteen-line poem in iambic pentameter. The structure of this sonnet is Petrarchan with a clear separation between the first eight lines (the “octave”) and the final six (the “sestet”), the dividing line being the moment of ejaculation—the “shudder in the loins.” The rhyme scheme of the sonnet is ABAB CDCD EFGEFG. The poem may be divided in two halves. The first comprises the violent encounter of Zeus and Leda ending in ‘a shudder in the loins’,
Consider these interpretations of the Poem. Make reference to his other poems in your discussion. 1.This is an intense description of a mythical story, bringing home the power and continued relevance of myths to the modern world. 2.This is a poem about the conflicts in Yeats’ psyche; he is both Leda and the swan. 3.The poem is an allegory for the "rape" of Ireland by its colonial masters, the British. 4.The poem is showing how one event can lead to the end of one era and the start of a new – the violent birth of change
Historical Readings… Historically, the poem could relate to the making of Ireland, just as the original Leda and the Swan related to the making of Greece. The events of Easter 1916 ended in a disaster but five years later Ireland became an independent state. “The feathered glory” of England engendered disaster after disaster with Ireland, and only after a few years of independence, the country is still “so caught up” and “so mastered.” Isn’t the powerful England the “indifferent beak” that could let Ireland drop? Ireland did not finalize its constitution until 1937, and withdrew from the British Commonwealth in 1948. Yeats was a senator in the newly formed state and should have been preoccupied with the early attempts at writing a constitution. To “put on his knowledge with his power” could refer to adopting the laws of England, which is surely a difficult thing to do in such circumstances: who wants to adopt the principles of the aggressor? Sexual tension and politics make a difficult marriage. Leda and the Swan could not only be the historical description of the relationship between England and Ireland, but also Yeats’ expression of his own sexual power and frustrations.