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Discuss the way Yeats explores the theme of destruction in "Leda and the Swan".

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Introduction

´╗┐Discuss the ways Yeats explores the theme of destruction in Leda and The Swan ?Leda and the Swan?, written in 1923 yet published in 1928 as part of ?The Tower? collection by Yeats, illustrates the brutal act of rape. According to Greek mythology, Zeus ? the ruler of the Olympus ? descends to Earth in the form of a swan and rapes Leda ? the queen of Sparta. Yeats represents Zeus to be deceptive and there is a sense of duality because he is committing a sin whilst being a god and a swan, which are both majestic beings. However, near the end of the poem Yeats considers what has been created from the destruction; the most beautiful woman ever to set foot in Greek history. Hence, Yeats ponders if this immoral act was truly destructive. The true destructive nature of the poem is presented via the detailed description of the swan?s dominance over Leda?s vulnerability and this is shown through a variety of phrases, ?Above the staggering girl?, ?dark webs? and ?Nape caught in his bill?. As the swan is seen to be ?above? Leda is suggests a sense of complete dominance over her and undermines Leda. Also, as she is ?staggering? it shows that she not in control of herself anymore which emphasises her weakness. ...read more.

Middle

The present tense is used in the octet and it consists of active verbs such as ?holds? and ?push?. This suggests the act to be very quick and aggressive. On the other hand the verbs are very much passive in the sestet as seen by ?caught? and ?mastered? suggests it was planned. Additionally, the aggressive tempo of rape is also defined by the use of caesura which can be seen as a reflection of the gasps and pangs from Leda as she is being violated by Zeus. Leda later bore Helen of Troy due to her being raped and as Helen was the most beautiful woman on the planet she had many suitors. She married king Menelaus and this meant other men were jealous. This led to her abduction by Paris, the prince of troy which culminated to the Trojan War. The vivid imagery of the destruction of Troy is seen in ?Leda and The Swan? through the phase ?The broken wall, the burning roof and tower?. The plosive harsh sounding words, ?broken? and ?burning? emphasise the destruction taking place in the city linking back to the raping of Leda. Moreover, the wall and the roof are symbols of shelter and defence hence by having then obliterated it shows a city to be exposed and vulnerable just like Leda was. ...read more.

Conclusion

Equally, in ?Cold Heaven? there is a contrast between the positive perceptions of heaven yet the harsh cold which causes the mental destruction of Yeats?s mind shows that contrast and differences can lead to destruction. However, in ?September 1913? the phrase ?God help us? is a passionate cry towards religion in order to aid Ireland in their cause thus portraying God as a saviour. However, in ?Leda and the Swan? God is ironically being portrayed as the sinner and someone that the people cannot look up to. Moreover, in ?The Wild Swans at Coole? the connotations linked to swans are very much positive as Yeats reminisces in his youthful memories and truly describes them as magnificent creatures. Their appreciation is seen through the compliment ?lover by lover? which shows that they are loved not only by Yeats, but by many others and hence exemplifying their beauty showing harmony as opposed to destruction. Overall, destruction is portrayed through entrapment, deception and the consequences of one negative act leading to bigger impacts. The fact that the Yeats published the poem five years later was because in 1923 was when the war ended and Yeats perhaps felt the poem being so violent shouldn?t be published at a time of such glory and celebration. The theme of destruction is consistent throughout the poem yet Yeats does question in the sestet if it was worthwhile, however that is quickly subdued by the disposable nature of the swan and destruction returns. ...read more.

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