Wilful Zeus returns to his mountain tow’r
A golden swan trailing destructive wake
Wretched Leda cast off yet not one hour
False god born of myth, post-majestic fake
Sycophantic fauns herald hollow reign
Empty promises clash, petulant threats ring
‘I, Zeus, shall make Olympus great again’
(When you’re a god, you can do anything…)
How small this ‘god’ bestriding his world
Devoid of love’s wisdom, adorned with lies
How heavy the burden for the future unfurled
When blood shed downstream, hears poor Leda’s cries
The photo above prompted this poem alongside the legend of Zeus and Leda. The photo comes from Sue Vincent’s Thursday #writephoto prompt.
Leda and the Swan is a story from Greek mythology in which the god Zeus, in the form of a swan, seduces Leda, the wife of Tyndareus, King of Sparta. According to later Greek mythology, Leda laid two eggs, bearing Helen and Polydeuces (children of Zeus), and Castor and Clytemnestra (children of her husband). The story was the subject of W. B. Yeats’s celebrated poem (copied below), in which it is subtly suggested that Clytemnestra has somehow been traumatized by what the god-swan has done to her mother, contributing to further trauma within the story of the Trojan War, in which Clytemnestra was the wife (and ultimate killer) of King Agamemnon.
(NB the plot of the movie ‘Troy‘ doesn’t bear much resemblance to the Greek myth, but if Hollywood can and does re-write history, then why not myth?)
Leda and the Swan
W. B. Yeats, 1865 – 1939
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?
You have followed Yeats well.
And, across the ocean, this is particularly apt.
I am a bit rubbish at appreciating poetry but I know what I like… and boy did I like that one. It is good you put the William Butler Yeats’ poem underneath because I went on to read that too and the quality of both pieces is comparable… A bit of a compliment when you think what a giant he was. You have produced a lovely powerful evocative piece
Wow, that is a huge compliment – thank you!
Pleasure was all mine
I think it is great and I am from South Africa which is an ocean away.
Hollywood rewrites history,myths and legends and the sadness is that the skeweed representation alters perception so much that the new ‘myth’ becomes the one people believe.
Thanks Sue, much appreciated. I am curious how this one will be perceived on the other side of the Atlantic.
I don’t know which side of it you are on 🙂
It seems heavily Trumpian