WBYeats And Leda And The Swan Essay — страница 2

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in the octave the events prior to the union of Zeus and Leda, and the in sestet the ensuing events and visions of them. Though not immediately obvious due, in part, to the shocking aspect of the subject matter and beauty of Yeats’ language, we can see that the poem does indeed have a rhyme scheme, following the ababcdcd efgefg pattern. In the octave, Yeats creates an image of time nearly standing still, with all these events of great magnitude happening to Leda. The reader may almost see the scene as a series of still photographs. The immediate immersion into the action puts the reader in a similar position to Leda, struggling to make sense of what is occurring, what is assaulting our senses. The initial flurry of activity, strangely, seems both shockingly real and somewhat

muted, as though we were watching ourselves from a distance. The immediacy of the situation, however, remains. Yeats sets the tone of the poem by contrasting the beauty and strength of the swan; “great wings” (1), “feathered glory” (6), “brute blood of the air” (11), “indifferent” (13), with the powerlessness of Leda; “staggering” (2), “helpless” (4), “terrified” (5), being “mastered by” Zeus (11). There is also a theme that runs through the poem, one of destiny. Mythology dictates that this event, the impregnation of Leda by Zeus in swan form, was to happen to bring about the kidnapping of Helen, the subsequent fall of Troy, and the murder of Agamemnon. Oracles often prophesied such events, and Yeats’ idea of destiny and cyclical history fits in

quite well with this poem. In some of Yeats’ other poems, most notably in his 1920 work, “A Second Coming,” he expresses his idea of history as occurring in cycles of about 2,000 years. Calling these cycles “gyres,” he diagrammed them as a series of cones, attached base to base and tip to tip. Once the maximum diameter had been reached, and the universe had expanded, in both a physical and cultural sense, a process taking about 2,000 years, it would begin to contract, in an antithetical phase to the first cone. The poem of “Leda and the Swan,” then, fits into Yeats’ antithetical gyre, with things wending their way towards cataclysm. Yeats himself describes his system: “When the old primary [gyre] becomes the new antithetical [gyre], the old realisation of an

objective moral law is changed into a subconscious turbulent instinct.. The world of rigid custom and law is broken up by ‘the uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor’” (Macrae 157). Thus, his poems almost take on a dual mindset, and can be, at times categorized, much like William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience.” Yeats writes both on the ideal (for example, his poems on the birth of Christ, such as “The Magi”) and the antithetical. And thus, the system that Yeats subscribes to seems to roll on, regardless of individual gestures or events. Perhaps this is what allows Yeats to write of the atrocities Leda experiences with such clinical detachment. . The poem leaves the reader with many questions. Did Leda realize the swan is Zeus? Did

she try to resist at all? Did Leda glimpse the future irrevocably shaped by her children? All these questions posed by the poem are left to the reader to decide. Again, in Yeats’ gyres, the answers to them have little, if any significance. Yet, to the reader, they can completely change the interpretation of the poem. Like many of Yeats’ other works, “Leda and the Swan” seems to be rather open-ended. Yet, in allowing the reader to decide for themselves the answers to the questions, Yeats achieves not only beautiful, but also highly personal poems. With each interpretation, the significance of the poem to the reader will be different. And so, “Leda and the Swan” transcends culture and education and class, and even the Greek myth that it sprang from, to become a poem

that asks its readers to think how their interpretation of the work affects history. Works Cited Encarta(r) 98 Desk Encyclopedia (c) & 1996-97 Microsoft Corporation. Macrae. Alasdair D. F. W. B. Yeats. St. Martin’s Press: New York. 1995 Parada, Carlos. Genealogical Guide to Greek Mythology. Paul Anstroms Forlag: Jonsered. Sweden. 1993. Online. http://hsa.brown.edu/ maicar/Leda.html Whitaker, Thomas R. Swan and Shadow: Yeats’s Dialogue with History. University of North Carolina: Chapel Hill. 1964 1 In Greek mythology, king of Mycenae, and commander of the Greek forces in the Trojan War. He was the son of Atreus. To calm the winds delaying his army’s journey to Troy, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis. After a ten-year siege, Troy fell and