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Irish Poem: Leda and the Swan, By W. B. Yeats

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It has been a while since I featured a poem by the great W.B Yeats from the top 100 Irish poems list. This week the poem comes in at number 98—a powerful sonnet composed by Yeats in 1923. A Sonnet is a poem of fourteen lines using a number of formal rhyme schemes.

The poem focuses on the story from the Greek myth in which Zeus, having adopted the form of a swan, ravishes the girl Leda and impregnates her with the child who will become Helen of Troy. It’s a big subject, and there’s a lot of literature and artwork on the web. It is also quite unusual for Yeats as he typically did not write sonnets. Enjoy this incredible Irish poem. Be sure to comment below with what you thought. 

top Irish poem by W.B Yeats

Leda and the Swan

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?

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