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Leda and the Swan

Leda and the Swan

by William Butler Yeats

Sex Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast. (line 2-4)

All these things seem to be happening at once. The different parts of the swan – the "dark webs" of his feet, his "bill" and "breast" – act as if independently of one another to trap Leda on multiple fronts.

Quote #2

The feathered glory from her loosening thighs? (line 6)

"Feathered glory"? The word "glory" reminds us that the swan is a god in disguise. Yeats performs a delicate balancing act between revealing enough information so that we don't have to guess at what he's talking about, but not revealing so much that his audience would consider the poem lewd.

Quote #3

And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies? (lines 7-8)

The swan moves swiftly and gracefully like a river. This "white rush" overwhelms Leda and begins to weaken her psychological defenses. She opposes the rape, yet Yeats seems to imply that she manages to notice the heartbeat of the animal on top of her. The speaker remarks on this shift with a question: "How could she not feel it?"

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