Birds form an integral part of the long history of humanity’s mythology. We’ll explore some of that mythology in the life of this blog. Today we’ll use one of those myths as an introduction to bird sex or “avian reproduction” as it should be called in polite society.
It is the myth of Leda and the Swan. Leda was the beautiful maiden whom Zeus desired. Zeus, knowing that his wife Hera violently disapproved of his sexual wanderings with beautiful mortals, tried to hide his sexual intentions toward Leda by disguising himself as a swan. The intercourse between Leda and Zeus – in most retelling of the myth – resulted in an egg from which Helen of Troy was born. Here is the most famous poetic versions of the myth.
Leda And The Swan
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?
Have you ever wondered why Zeus chose to be a swan? Or why the first tellers of the myth told their audiences that Zeus became a swan instead of some other bird? Stay tuned. . . .
The painting, one of the more circumspect paintings of this famous myth, is by the Spanish artist Ignacio Diaz Olano (1860-1937)
Here are other posts about bird sex: