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Leda and the Swan Commentary.

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Introduction

Marc Barron November 2, 2003 Period 7 Leda and the Swan Commentary The poem "Leda and the Swan" is based on the mythological story about the rape of Leda, a mortal woman who marries a mortal man, Tyndareus, but was sought out by Zeus, the god of the gods. As a result of this rape, Leda lays two eggs, one which hatches into the war-gods Castor and Polydeuces, and the other which hatches into Clytemnestra and Helen, who is to become the most beautiful woman alive. Yeats poem tells the actual situation of Zeus having sex with Leda in the form of a swan. Yeats use of structure and imagery show that the whole poem is a poem of contrasts. The poem is written in a traditional form, a sonnet, using a traditional rhyme scheme. However, the irony in the structure of this poem is extremely non-traditional. ...read more.

Middle

The imagery, and the diction in general, is also representative, at first glance, of oppositional elements within the text. As stated before, a first reading shows Leda described in concrete terms and the swan described in abstract terms. Leda is the "staggering girl" (2) and the poem refers to "Her thighs," (2) "her nape," (3) "her helpless breast," (4) and "her loosening thighs" (6). The swan is never actually called Zeus or even the Swan. The "Swan" is described as "great wings," (1) "dark webs," (3) "the feathered glory," (6) "that white rush," (7) "blood," (13) and "indifferent beak" (15). A closer examination of the poem, however, shows that ambiguities do exist. The concrete and abstract images merge, thus creating ambiguities in the poem. Abstract terms are used for Leda, "terrified vague fingers," (5) and concrete terms are used for the swan, "wings," (1) "bill," (3) and "beak" (15). ...read more.

Conclusion

Yeats tone is aggressive in the first half of the octave, inquisitive by which he seems to glorify the rape in the second half of the octave, and passive in the sestet, where he questions the motives of Leda on "his knowledge with his power," (14) possibly alluding to the rape as a symbol for disaster in the future. (The birth of Helen leading to the fall of Troy). The tone draws the reader into the action and into the poem in the first quatrain, and then causes you to reflect on the horrific images of the rape in the last quatrain. Finally, a very important event is foreshadowed in "Leda and the Swan." The first half of the sestet projects the reader into the far future: "The broken wall... and Agamemnon dead" (9-11). This event foreshadows the Trojan War, which broke out as a result of Helen's abduction to Troy. This is a poem with many ambiguities and sexual connotations. Closer examination to structure shows the rape, followed by conception, followed by the fall of Troy. Word Count: 989 1 Barron ...read more.

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