Leda and the Swan
Leda and the Swan
by William Butler Yeats

Leda and the Swan Analysis

Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

The SwanThe swan in this poem isn't the kind of swan you can throw crackers to at your local pond. This swan came down to earth from Mount Olympus with a mission. That's right, the swan is really t...

Form and Meter

Petrarchan SonnetThe Petrarchan sonnet is named after Petrarch, a 14th century Italian poet who made the form popular throughout Europe. Like all sonnets, the Petrarchan sonnet has 14 lines. Unlike...

Speaker

The speaker of "Leda and the Swan" is like one of those news reporters who covers some natural catastrophe or burning building but doesn't step in to help out. He gives the play-by-play of Leda's p...

Setting

The setting is choppy and distorted. We see the world the way that you might if you had just been smacked by some large object…like a swan. We assume that just before the event, Leda was wand...

Sound Check

What we notice most about the sound of this poem is how varied it is. Yeats's ear is so fine-tuned that we wouldn't be surprised if he could hear a mouse coming from a mile away. Through the sonnet...

What's Up With the Title?

When Yeats wrote this poem in 1928, most of his readers would have been familiar with the story of Leda and the Swan. Nowadays, it helps to have a good online encyclopedia to help out with referenc...

Calling Card

Turning Points in HistoryYeats likes to capture important moments in history. In fact, he had a whole complicated theory of history, symbolized by the image of the gyre, a kind of spiral that looks...

Tough-O-Meter

(4) Base CampMost of the poem is taken up with images of sex between a human and a bird, and Yeats makes no efforts to hide "the facts of life" from his readers. Depending on your level of interest...

Brain Snacks

After being impregnated by Zeus, Leda's children were born in eggs, like birds. (Source)In order to give Leda a voice, the contemporary writer Carl Phillips wrote the poem, "Leda, After the Swan."...

Sex Rating

RWhile you can certainly find poems more graphic than "Leda and the Swan," Yeats's approach skirts the borders of propriety by tackling issues of rape, bestiality, and, for lack of a better phrase,...

Shout Outs

Historical ReferencesLeda and the Swan (title)The Burning of Troy (10)King Agamemnon (lines 11)

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