Leda and the Swan
by William Butler Yeats
"Leda and the Swan" is essentially a depiction of a violent sexual encounter between a woman and a bird. If you find yourself sympathetic to the Ancient Greek perspective, you might think that the encounter is a divine and mystical experience. If you find yourself approaching the poem from a more modern perspective, you might be horrified. The poem caters to both viewpoints. Yeats's language seems to imply that the swan is violent and uncaring but also mysterious and seductive.
- Line 4: Leda's "breast" is personified as "helpless." In fact, Leda is the helpless one.
- Lines 5-6: Again, Leda's fingers can't be "terrified"; only Leda can be terrified. It's a classic example of personification of an inhuman object.
- Line 9: Yeats provides an image for the moment of sex: the swan's (or possibly Leda's, as Yeats didn't use a pronoun here) "loins" or thighs "shudder."