"The story of Zeus transforming himself into a swan so that he might couple with Leda, they call myth, but the tale about a holy ghost impregnating a virgin, they believe..."
more Artful Romance

In  Greek and Roman mythology, Leda is the wife of the Spartan King Tyndareus. She is a mistress of Zeus or Jupiter, and according to Homer , is "famous because of her children", particularly Helen who is known for having caused the Trojan War and Clytemnestra who gained at least some fame in her role as the naughty wife of Agamemnon, the Greeks' leader against Trojans. While not particularly common in literature, Leda has been portrayed in art throughout history. Zeus is said to have raped her in the form of a swan, thus fathering Helen. The bestial, erotic imagery associated with a sexual encounter with an animal has been popular in art and has lent itself readily to themes involving male sexual aggression and sexual expression in general.

Zeus had affairs numbering in the hundreds with both goddesses and mortal women. Among the goddesses there was Metis, Themis, Mnemosyne, and Demeter. His wife Hera often attempted to punish both Zeus and his lovers for their wrongdoing. There were many mortal women that Zeus pursued as well. Alcmene was pursued by Zeus and gave him Heracles, whom Hera tortured throughout his lifetime. Danae, to whom Zeus made love in form of a shower of gold, was the mother of Perseus who killed Medusa the Gorgon. Zeus charmed and kidnapped princess Europa by transforming himself into a magnificent white bull.


Leonardo DaVinci (1452-1519, 1505)

MichelAngelo (1475-1564, 1531)

Antonio Allegri Correggio (1489-1534, 1531)

François Boucher (1703-1770, 1741)

Paul Cezanne (1839-1906, ?)

Paul Prosper Tillier (1834-?,?)




William Butler Yeats (1923)

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?


Hilda Doolittle (1921)

Where the slow river
meets the tide,
a red swan lifts red wings
and darker beak,
and underneath the purple down
of his soft breast
uncurls his coral feet.

Through the deep purple
of the dying heat
of sun and mist,
the level ray of sun-beam
has caressed
the lily with dark breast,
and flecked with richer gold
its golden crest.

Where the slow lifting
of the tide,
floats into the river
and slowly drifts
among the reeds,
and lifts the yellow flags,
he floats
where tide and river meet.

Ah kingly kiss--
no more regret
nor old deep memories
to mar the bliss;
where the low sedge is thick,
the gold day-lily
outspreads and rests
beneath soft fluttering
of red swan wings