20 February 2011

Reflection on Yeats' "Leda and the Swan"

I finished reading my little book of Yeats. It wasn't the first time I had read it, and I didn't realize how much he wrote about mythology, and especially about Troy and Helen. The poem in the title of this post, "Leda and the Swan," is about the rape of Leda by Zeus. In the myth, Zeus takes the form of a Swan and forces himself on the beautiful Leda, who then bares Helen. The poem Yeats wrote about it is short, and if I didn't know the myth I would have been lost.

Yeats mentions Helen and Troy in several of his other poems, such as "No Second Troy," and, "A Prayer for my Daughter." All of these poems got me to thinking about Zeus and how he functioned as the god of gods; "Leda and the Swan," the poem and the myth, make him a father to beautiful Helen.

Zeus the deadbeat.

The lightening-god's fling brought upon both Troy and Greece unimaginable grief. A father he was not. How would it have been if Zeus had restrained himself (in this myth and others)? How would it have been if he had even fathered Helen, or protected her from her first destructive marriage?

Zeus the lust-god.

What a contrast to the Father we have through Christ. He does not father illegitimate children, does not take what is not His own, does not leave us in our loneliness. This is the difference: all is His. He makes us all His own again through a willing human mother - comes Himself to patiently reclaim all creation. And He is available to all, now. Just like a father should be.

God the Father. Now that's a myth, true myth.

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