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Leda and the Swan

Leda and the Swan


by William Butler Yeats

Analysis: Setting

Where It All Goes Down

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 wandering through a scenic landscape like a forest. But we never get to see that tranquil view. Instead, we get a series of images reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

The first eight lines of the poem are taken up with Leda's sensory impressions, like the wooshing sound of the swan's wings, her own "staggering" legs, the feeling of having the back of her neck held by the swan's bill, and the dark webs of its feet rubbing against her thighs.

The setting of the poem zooms into the future in the final six lines. From a distance, we recognize the "broken" walls of the city of Troy. The city has been sacked and burned, and it glows orange through the smoky darkness. Zooming even farther into the future, we see Agamemnon lying dead on the floor of his home, having been murdered by his wife Clytemnestra and the lover she took during the war.

The poem's final lines return to the present setting of Leda and the swan, just in time to catch the swan dropping her from its beak.

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