Leda and the Swan

By William Butler Yeats 1865–1939
A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
                                  Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

W. B. Yeats, “Leda and the Swan” from The Poems of W. B. Yeats: A New Edition, edited by Richard J. Finneran. Copyright 1933 by Macmillan Publishing Company, renewed 1961 by Georgie Yeats. Reprinted with the permission of A. P. Watt, Ltd. on behalf of Michael Yeats.

Source: The Collected Works of W. B. Yeats (Macmillan, 1989)

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Poet William Butler Yeats 1865–1939

POET’S REGION Ireland

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Mythology & Folklore

Poetic Terms Sonnet

 William Butler Yeats

Biography

William Butler Yeats is widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. He belonged to the Protestant, Anglo-Irish minority that had controlled the economic, political, social, and cultural life of Ireland since at least the end of the seventeenth century. Most members of this minority considered themselves English people who merely happened to have been born in Ireland, but Yeats was staunch in . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Mythology & Folklore

POET’S REGION Ireland

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Sonnet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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