Leda and the Swan by William Butler Yeats

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.

Exhibit A:

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?


This is What The Universe Looks Like

I never realized until today, how unable I was to visualize space.

Despite being an avid fan of Battlestar Galactica and Firefly, I have always pictured a black velvet canopy with little white specks whenever I heard the word "space." Science Fiction uses more imagery than simple stars and emptiness, but I had always assumed that these beautiful giant nebulas were the stuff of, well, science fiction.

But today I visited the NASA website - they have a great Astronomy Picture of the Day archive - and look what I found. Much more than "Twinkle, twinkle, little star. How I wonder what you are."

There is the most beautiful dust and fire you have ever seen.

And only 4% of the universe is made up of matter we are able to perceive.
96% of the universe is missing. It's nothing. We can't find it.

And it's always getting bigger.

Space. Wow.