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The Sudden Blow From An Annunciation From Above

1021 words - 5 pages

William B. Yeats was an Irish poet and is recognized as one of the most foremost figures in 20th century literature. At the time of his poem “Leda and the Swan,” Ireland was going through a fight to establish their identity. The poem was born when A.E. Russell approached Yeats requesting him to write a politically driven poem for his new radical monthly publication The Irish State (Cullingford, 1994). In an effort to stir the pot and ignite an Irish revolution, Yates is reported to have said that as he felt the individualist movement was exhausted, a “birth from above, preceded by some violent annunciation” (Johnsen, 1991, 80) would be the only means in which Ireland could reform. This ...view middle of the document...

In other words, Yeats attempts to allow the reader to decide if Leda is a victim or a willing participant. This relates to the higher meaning of the poem in that, Yeats wants Irish citizens to reflect on their violent history with the English and decide if they were enthusiastic participants of the previous system or if they felt victimized.
Yeats has described not only the improbable image of a bird raping a woman rather has included the absurd notion that it does so while maintaining his airborne status. The ridiculousness of this thought and lack of a violent tone confuses a reader, making it seem as if this poem were more of a comedy than a legitimate call to overcome oppression. Furthermore, in the first two versions of “Leda and the Swan,” Yeats commences with the image of a large creature descending upon Leda, that draws the reader to this wonder of an annunciation from above instead of to the violent actions that are about to transpire.
Yeats is able to resolve these issues in the first quartet of his final version. Yeats transforms the ambiguous “rush,” and “wheel” (1924) into “a sudden blow” (1928). By commencing with “a sudden blow” the reader is immediately drawn into the chaotic sequence of violent events that is about to follow. Moreover, no longer are the nonaggressive actions of “swooping” (1919, 23) “hovering” (1923,1924) and “descend[ing]” (1924) present. Rather Yeats has replaced these passive motions with the violent movement of “the great wings beating” (1928). Through these changes, the reader no more awes of the decent of a divine figure, but rather is thrown into a state of chaos, fear and vehemence. By the time the first quartet is over, the reader is left dazzled as to what has just transpired. The use of words imply powerful action such as sudden blow, beating, staggering, beating, shudder, mastered, burning lead to a seemingly never ending chain of abuse. Combing these with adjectives and descriptive...

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