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From: "Jean R." <>
Subject: "Leda And The Swan" (Greek Mythology) - Oliver St. John GOGARTY (1878- )
Date: Thu, 21 Apr 2005 15:56:42 -0700


LEDA AND THE SWAN

Though her Mother told her
Not to go a-bathing,
Leda loved the river
And she could not keep away:
Wading in the freshlets
When the noon was heavy;
Walking by the water
At the close of the day.

Where between its waterfalls,
Underneath the beeches,
Gently flows a broader
Hardly moving stream,
And the balanced trout lie
In the quiet reaches;
Taking all her clothes off,
Leda went to swim.

There was not a flag-leaf
By the river's margin
That might be a shelter
From a passer-by;
And a sudden whiteness
In the quiet darkness,
Let alone the splashing,
Was enough to catch an eye.

But the place was lonely,
And her clothes were hidden;
Even cattle walking
In the ford had gone away;
Every single farm-hand
Sleeping after dinner --
What's the use of talking?
There was no one in the way.

In, without a stitch on,
Peaty water yielded,
Till her head was lifted
With its ropes of hair;
It was more surprising
Than a lily gilded
Just to see how golden
Was her body there:

Lolling in the water,
Lazily uplifting
Limbs that on the surface
Whitened into snow;
Leaning on the water,
Indolently drifting,
Hardly any faster
Than the foamy bubbles go.

You would say to see her
Swimming in the lonely
Pool, or after, dryer,
Putting on her clothes:
"O but she is lovely,
Not a soul to see her,
And how lovely only
Leda's Mother knows!"

Under moving branches
Leisurely she dresses,
And the leafy sunlight
Made you wonder were
All its woven shadows
But her golden tresses,
Or a smock of sunlight
For her body bare.

When on earth great beauty
Goes exempt from danger,
It will be endangered
From a source on high;
When unearthly stillness
Falls on leaves, the ranger,
In his wood-lore anxious,
Gazes at the sky.

While her hair was drying,
Came a gentle languor,
Whether from the bathing
Or the breeze she didn't know.
Anyway she lay there,
And her Mother's anger
(Worse if she had wet hair)
Could not make her dress and go.

Whitest of all earthly
Things, the white that's rarest,
Is the snow on the mountains
Standing in the sun;
Next, the clouds above them,
Then the down is fairest
On the breast and pinions
Of a proudly sailing swan.

And she saw him sailing
On the pool where lately
She had stretched unnoticed,
As she thought, and swum;
And she never wondered
Why, erect and stately,
Where no river weed was
Such a bird had come.

What was it she called him:
Goosey-goosey gander?
For she knew no better
Way to call a swan;
And the bird responding
Seemed to understand her,
For he left his sailing
For the bank to waddle on.

Apple blossoms under
Hills of Lacedaemon,
With the snow beyond them
In the still blue air,
To the swan who hid them
With his wings asunder,
Than the breasts of Leda,
Were not lovelier!

Of the tales that daughters
Tell their poor old mothers,
Which by all accounts are
Often very odd;
Leda's was a story
Stranger than all others.
What was there to say but,
Glory be to God?

And she half-believed her,
For she knew her daughter;
And she saw the swan-down
Tangled in her hair.
Though she knew how deeply
Runs the stillest water;
How could she protect her
From the winged air?

Why is it effects are
Greater than their causes?
Why should causes often
Differ from effects?
Why should what is lovely
Fill the world with harness?
And the most deceived be
She who least suspects?

When the hyacinthine
Eggs were in the basket,
Blue as the whitness
Where a cloud begins:
Who would dream there lay there
All that Trojan brightness;
Agamemnon murdered;
And the mighty Twins?

-- Oliver St. GOGARTY (1878- ), from "1000 Years of Irish Poetry," ed. Kathleen Hoagland (1947/1975). According to Greek mythology, Leda was approached by the god Zeus while he was masquerading as a swan. Leda was the mother of many noble children including the famous beauty Helen, the heroine Clytemnestra and the twins Castor & Polydeuces. While mother of all, myth has it that her husband Tyndareus was not the father of every child.... The myth of Leda and Swan has been captured in famous paintings and by poets including Oliver St. John GOGARTY and William Butler YEATS.



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