William Butler Yeats" poem "Leda and the Swan" is an awkward recreation of the Greek myth in which Zeus takes the form of a swan in order to seduce Leda. In this poem William Butler Yeats, known as one of the greatest twentieth century poets of Europe chose to use the sonnet format to retell this story. Yeats was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1965. He died at age 73. This Poem was written in 1924, just one year after Yeats won the Nobel Prize in poetry. Yeats, unlike many other poets, wrote this poem using a rhyme scheme. .
Leda and the Swan states two main charaters and doesn't refer to the main event whatsoever. Leda and the swan refer to two characters and leaves the reader wondering what was the relationship that emerged and took place. Because the title doesn't mention the rape, it brings out that a situation existed, but doesn't put emphisis on the fact that the horrific act was invloved. The significance that the poem, even though it descibes the rape, more analyzes the relationship between Leda and the Swan.
In the first stanza of the poem, Yeats immediately brings the reader to the moment of supreme horror and doesn't hesitate to let the reader know what is happening: a sudden blow, great wings beating still above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed, dark webs, her nape caught in his bill. Leda was a victim of a surprise attack. She is described as "a staggering girl," "her helpless breasts"(Rosenthal, 115). The Swan is identified as overpowering- "the great wings," "the dark webs," "he holds her helpless breast upon his breast"(Rosenthal, 114). The first stanza describes this poem as a rape. The swan is not known for being a violent bird. It is a peaceful, beautiful bird. Perhaps this is why Zeus .
chose the swan as a disguise to surprise Leda. It was "a sudden blow." She had no time to react, or defend herself. It seems as if she had no idea what was happening. This was a Swan attacking a girl who was "staggering and helpless.