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H. D. (Hilda Doolittle; 1886-1961)

Leda


              1Where the slow river
              2meets the tide,
              3a red swan lifts red wings
              4and darker beak,
              5and underneath the purple down
              6of his soft breast
              7uncurls his coral feet.

              8Through the deep purple
              9of the dying heat
            10of sun and mist,
            11the level ray of sun-beam
            12has caressed
            13the lily with dark breast,
            14and flecked with richer gold
            15its golden crest.

            16Where the slow lifting
            17of the tide,
            18floats into the river
            19and slowly drifts
            20among the reeds,
            21and lifts the yellow flags,
            22he floats
            23where tide and river meet.

            24Ah kingly kiss --
            25no more regret
            26nor old deep memories
            27to mar the bliss;
            28where the low sedge is thick,
            29the gold day-lily
            30outspreads and rests
            31beneath soft fluttering
            32of red swan wings
            33and the warm quivering
            34of the red swan's breast.

Notes

1] Leda, whom Zeus saw, the wife of a king of Sparta, naked in the Eurotas river. Zeus took the form of a swan to seduce her, begetting Castor, Pollux, and Helen, the subject of another of H.D.'s lyrics. W. B. Yeats' "Leda and the Swan" depicts the violence of the rapein contrast to what H.D. sees.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Collected Poems of H.D. (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1925): 174-75. York University Library Special Collections 4928.
First publication date: 1919
Publication date note: Chapbook 1.1 (July 1919): 10-11
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/21

Rhyme: unrhyming


Other poems by H. D.