4 November 2018
The Emotional Effect of Poetic Structure on “Leda and the Swan”
The poem “Leda and the Swan” by W.B. Yeats is a poetic retelling of Zeus’s rape of Leda in Greek Mythology. According to the original myth, Zeus transformed himself physically into the form of a beautiful swan. As the swan, Zeus came to Leda and forced himself upon her, raping her. Poets make crucial choices every time they create a new work. They consider the stanza breaks and arrangements concerning spaces and lines, and these all affect how the audience is guided through the poem. “Leda and the Swan” is written in the form of a sonnet; specifically it takes the shape of both the Shakespearian and the Petrarchan sonnets. This poem is written with a modern take by combining the two forms, and is focused on the emotional tension being constructed through them. In “Leda and the Swan,” Yeats uses both the Shakespearian and the Petrarchan sonnet structures to draw attention to the nontraditional subject matter and the power shift of the poem by combining the two styles.
The poem “Leda and the Swan” by Yeats uses a combination of the two sonnet styles, Shakespearian and Petrarchan, in order to cover a content nontraditional to the either form. The subject matter of this poem is addressing the rape of Leda and describes the situation “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” (Yeats 749). Rape in any context is a disgusting and heart wrenching occurrence. The subject of rape is mostly avoided; most sonnets address matters of love and numerous other emotions, nature, and other societal matters, but never rape. Yeats uses these differing structures to create an atypical structure to present—what should be—an atypical event.
Similarly to Yeats’s use of structure to affect the poems atypical nature, Yeats also uses structure to draw attention to the...