Comparing Leda And The Swan And Leda's Sister And The Geese

1007 words - 4 pages

Comparing Leda and the Swan and Leda's sister and the Geese

The poem Leda and the Swan is about the rape of Leda committed by Zeus in disguise as a swan.  Because of what they have done, it sets history in motion.  Thus, it's fated that Helen will launch the war of a thousand ships, how Troy will fall, and Agamemnon will be murdered,...etc. 

The poem Leda's sister and the Geese is about where Leda went that led up to her encounter with Zeus.  She then goes home whimpering and tells her mother that she's been raped by a swan and she fears she's pregnant.  Her mother then makes her sister take on all of the chores while she "takes it easy."

Leda and the Swan is meant to be a serious poem. It is in iambic pentameter consisting
of 4 line stanzas.  It has a traditional rhyme scheme consisting of ABAB CDCD EFG EFG.  It is interesting in the fact that 4 of the rhymes aren't perfect:  "push" "rush" and "up" "drop."  The poem starts out aggressive and ends in a passive tone.  Words used to describe Leda directly were:  "the staggering girl" "her thighs" "her nape" "her helpless breast" and "her loosening thighs."  An indirect word describing Leda is "terrified vague fingers." Indirect words used to describe the swan indirectly were:  "great wing" "dark webs" "that white rush"  "blood" "indifferent beak" "feathered glory."  Direct terms used to describe the swan were "wings" "bill" and "beak." The swan was never actually called Zeus or even the swan in the poem. Agamemnon was the only name to be mentioned in the poem. 

Verbs play an important role in understanding the poem.  It starts out in present tense with words such as "holds" "push" "feel" "engenders" and they shift at the end towards past tense with words like "caught" "mastered" and "did."  The verbs in present tense imply an intense urgency while those in past tense distance the reader from what just occurred.  There is juxtaposition between active and passive verbs so that the active verb forms belong to the swan: "holds" "engenders" and the passive verbs belongs to  Leda: "caressed" "caught" "mastered". 

The subject matter of the poem is violent and disturbing. Also, the sonnet is brief, thus, ensuring the rape will be brief as well. The organization of the poem shows the progress of the rape.  The first quatrain presents the assault-how the swan literally drops onto Leda, how he's caressing her thighs, and how he's holding her helplessly underneath him.  The second quatrain reflects her emotions-how terrified she was, what should she do, should she try to push him off of her?  The third stanza presents the ejaculation scene ("a shudder in the loins engenders...") Finally, the fourth stanza asks the question...

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