Tonight's research took an interesting turn, from orbital patterns of moons
to symbolist poetry.
The Greeks and Romans were not too terribly interested in Leda's story -
Helen and her war were much more heavily featured in their arts and
story-telling traditions. But later, especially in the Italian Renaissance,
painters and poets took up the tale, romanticizing the rape, eroticizing
the swan-on-lady action, and exhaulting (?) Leda's place in history, as the
mother of Helen.
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?
- W.B. Yeats
PS, "vague" is from a Latin word meaning "wandering." How could Leda's
hands, trembling and unable to get a firm grasp on any feathers, push
away a god in all his forceful glory?
"...before the indifferent beak could let her drop?" Does Yeats imagine
all this happening IN THE AIR, with Zeus holding Leda's neck in his beak,
beating his wings the whole time?