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I really wanted to share a sonnet by W.B. Yeats, since I'm such a fan of his work in general. Lo and behold, the only one I could readily find was "Leda and the Swan," which is actually a fairly disturbing poem about the seduction (some say rape) of Leda by Zeus, who made things even creepier by taking on the form of a swan, so you get the bestiality bump, too. (The resulting child was a demi-goddess named Helen of Troy and her twin, Polydeuces. The Greeks made it worse by saddling Leda with quads, and having her carry Castor and Clytemnestra, the children of Leda's mortal husband, AT THE SAME TIME.)

I distinctly recall my English professor in college saying that Leda fit into Yeats's theory of history as springing into a new cycle roughly every two thousand years, each spiraling cycle (gyre) beginning with an interaction between the divine and the human. (I.e., Leda and the swan, the birth of Jesus.) To all of which, I say whatever these days.

Despite its vague creepiness, it's still a wonderful poem. So here goes today's sonnet:

Leda and the Swan
by William Butler Yeats

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?

Form: A modern sonnet, using the following rhyme scheme: ABABCDCDEFGEFG. Note the split line, which makes it look like it might not be a sonnet, but really "And Agamemnon dead. Being so caught up" is a single line. He writes it in iambic pentameter, with a couple of cheats. Not in the lines ending in "power" and "tower" - that's quite traditionally allowed, and is called a "feminine" ending, as I discussed in my post about "Only Human" by Anna M. Evans. No, I'm talking about the "And Agamemnon dead" line, where he expects you to count the word "being" as a single syllable, and about the closing line, where he expects you to say "Before th'indiff'rent beak", basically eliding in two different places at the start of the line.


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