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William Butler Yeats
Sep 14, 2017 in Literature
Leda and the Swan
Being published in different periods of Yeats's life, the poems chosen for the analysis are very similar in how they make a reader feel the atmosphere is tense and uncertain, as if something unwanted is going to happen. The first poem is called Leda and the Swan, and its meaning is pretty straightforward, for it retells a famous myth about the rape of Leda by Zeus who turned into a swan. The events described in the sonnet are extremely dramatic everything happens very fast, but the consequences will be far-reaching. The reader gets this feeling from the last line which is actually a question: "Did she put on his knowledge with his power / Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?" (Yeats, p. 525).
Obviously, the author means that the event symbolizes the beginning of a new era, but he does not know yet whether it is going to be good or bad. Apart from that, the author manages to illustrate all the strangeness of the situation a girl is being raped by a swan. Yeats skillfully combines such words as "sudden", "dark", "glory" which show all the power and strength of the swan, with the vocabulary representing the girl's weakness and helplessness: "terrified", "loosening", "caressed" (Yeats). Yeats also alludes to the Trojan War which happened because of Leda's daughter Helen: "The broken wall, the burning roof and tower / And Agamemnon dead." (Yeats, p.525).
The Second Coming
The Second Coming is far more somber and even depressing. Yeats clearly speaks of the war and what it makes the world look like. For him, everything he knows is ruined and the future is uncertain (Things fall apart / The center cannot hold (Yeats, p. 524). Every line is filled with pessimism, and the mood is apocalyptical. It looks like Yeats is scared of the new age the world has entered into, so in his imagination, the future has a "gaze blank and pitiless as the sun" (Yeats, p. 524). The vocabulary also sets a dark mood: "the blood-dimmed tide is loosed" , "innocence is drowned","darkness", "nightmare" (Yeats). Like in Leda and the Swan, he ends the poem with a question, only for here, Yeats does not expect anything good to happen: "And what rough beast/ Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?" (Yeats, p. 525), and for him, the future brings no hope.