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Leda and the Swan by W.B. Yeats

            In the poem, "Leda and the Swan", written by W. Yeats, the speaker takes a tale from Greek mythology and puts a unique spin on it. In Greek mythology, Leda, the wife of King Tyndareus of Sparta, was either raped by Zeus or seduced Zeus to sleep with her. There is no set story on whether Leda was raped or was a temptress. The author plays with these two conflicting perspectives in the poem by using intense imagery to describe the rape, but uses irony and different perspectives to show that Zeus may not have actually raped Leda in order to blur the lines separating love and rape. .
             A glance of the writing reveals that the poem is an Italian sonnet, which means it is a 14-line sonnet that has an octave followed by a sestet with the rhyming scheme abab cdcd efgefg. Italian sonnets traditionally speak of love; however, an analysis of the octave reveals something else. The speaker uses strong adjectives to describe the victim, such as "the staggering girl" (2) with her "helpless breast" (4) and "terrified vague fingers" (5) to show that it isn't love that is taking place, but rape. The caesuras scattered throughout the first stanza in lines 1, 2, and 3 forces the reader to take frequent pauses. The "sudden blow" and the "great wings beating" in line 1 take these forced pauses and twists them into the rhythm of the swan's thrusts. The paradox of the "typical" octave shows that there may be a connection between love and rape. .
             The speaker also emphasizes the strength and dominance of the swan to a great extent. The second stanza highlights Zeus's dominance over Leda using masculine (stressed) end rhymes like "push" (5) with "rush" (7) and "thighs" (6) with "lies" (8), rendering her helpless. In line 6, the "feathered glory" is a metaphor for the male sex organ, which pries open her "loosening thighs" (6).

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