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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?
The first two lines of this sonnet recount the Greek mythological account of Zeus, in the form of a swan, attacking and mating with Leda, a Spartan royal princess. The product of this rape is Helen, later the wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta.
The result of this rape is Helen, who later married King Menelaus of Sparta. She was then taken to Troy by Paris, a prince of Troy, and that act was the cause of the Trojan War, referred to by Yeats as "the broken wall, the burning roof and tower."
Yeats is emphasizing the fact that the act, for Zeus, was just another physical conquest of a beautiful woman, and Yeats wonders if Leda could have understood the implications of the rape.
Yeats implies that Leda, overcome with sexual emotion, gives in to Zeus's power.