Analysis of Literary Devices: ""Leda and the Swan" ""Leda and the Swan" written by William Butler Yeats in 1928, is about a powerful god named Zeus

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Kimberly Gonzalez

April 3, 2006

English 102 10

Poetry Paper

Analysis of Literary Devices: ““Leda and the Swan”

         ““Leda and the Swan” written by William Butler Yeats in 1928, is about a powerful god named Zeus raping Leda in the form of a swan. It is assumed that the audience understands and has background knowledge of Greek Mythology and the event that Yeats bases this poem on. The result of Zeus raping Leda, Queen of Sparta is the birth of Helen. Helen is the reason for the fall of Troy. Yeats illustrates the rape of Leda and the cause of the fall of Troy through his use of personification, structure, and rhyme.

        In this poem, Yeats gives the swan humanlike qualities. A swan being able to rape Leda is personification. For example, the swan is rubbing Leda’s thighs with his webs, “Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed / By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,” (2-3). A swan does not have the ability to rape a human, or caress Leda’s thighs. In line 4, there is another example of personification, “He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.” Yeats also shows the unnatural superiority the swan has over a human, “A sudden blow: the great wings beating still” (1).Yeats uses personification in ““Leda and the Swan” to stretch the point that the swan is Zeus, the most powerful god.

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        Yeats writes this poem in sonnet form, or a 14 line poem in iambic pentameter. The structure of the sonnet is Petrarchan, an Italian form of the sonnet that characteristically divides its theme into an octave and sestet. The octave is eight lines and states the problem. The sestet is six lines and states the resolution of the problem. In this poem, there is a clear separation between the octave and sestet. In the octave of the poem or first eight lines, Yeats illustrates Leda being raped which as represents the problem. The last six lines of the poem or ...

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