Saturday, 9 October 2010

Leda and Swanage

I used to think Yeats's 'Leda and the Swan' a great poem (for whatever metric of 'great' I used to think applied): beautifully written -- I still think that -- but also profound and true. Now I'm not so sure. The crux is:
A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
The offhand 'shudder' for the male orgasm is (it strikes me now) rather self-regarding: a uniquely male grandiosity, 'it's only a sort of pleasurable tremble for me, but it brings DEATH and FIRE and EPIC AMAZINGNESS INTO THE WORLD!' This, it now seems to me, is a lie; not only in its quasi-adolescent masculine attempt to add meaning and grandeur to the absolutely perfectly commonplace spurting-out of sperm, but in the underlying rationale of the poem: that men make life and life makes epic tragedy. As if women have nothing to do with it! As if the comedic positivity engendered in life doesn't outweigh the destructiveness in the ratio of 9:1, by any objective assessment!

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