Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Earthgirls are easy

Somebody writes "But why a swan ... some historical context please" as it relates to Zeus's shape-shifted rape of Leda.

Answer:  Beats the hell out of me, other than that there are a lot of swans in Greek mythology.  I poked around and found a number of references to the fact that Zeus loved adopting the shape of animals and banging the Earthgirls.  So maybe the choice of a swan is purely arbitrary, the way one might choose the white linen suit over the blue seersucker on a hot day.  Can't help much beyond that.

But it wasn't a wasted effort since I came across a fairly alarming poem by W. B. Yeats called 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?
Pretty strong, and we don't have enough Yeats here at The Year.  The last stanza is interesting, since Agamemnon died a long time after the poem is ostensibly taking place.  In fact, Clytemnestra, one of the spawn of the Zeus/Leda/Tyndareus clusterfuck, murders Agamemnon.  And the final line speaks harshly of Zeus, some might say.

So that's something.

Back to the swan, there was some ancient thinking that the swan, with its extraordinary neck, was the perfect union of the upper realm -- the head, signifying mind and knowledge -- and the lower realm -- the body, signifying sex and power.  Wrapped up in there somewhere, you might argue based on Yeats' last stanza, is the idea that Leda, locked in Zeus' embrace, might have envisioned the Iliad (the sacking of Troy, Clytemnestra killing Agamemnon, etc.) long before it happened.

But that could just be cray-cray.

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