In late 1999 for the first time I encountered William Butler Yeats's poem "Leda and the Swan". (My early education was rather limited in the lit'ry dimension, OK? (^_^)). It was read aloud with awesome emotion and a vibrant Irish accent on an audio tape I found in the local public library. The overall title was something like The 100 Best Poems of All Time. Alas, the tape player in my car is kaput now, and I have yet to see the cassette resurface in the library's collection, though I've looked for it repeatedly over the years.

This poem is a breathtaking tour de force: a sonnet based on a vision of the mythological rape of Leda by Zeus as he takes the form of a gigantic bird. Yeats's words are so violent and overpowering that one feels, with the victim:

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.

... and on, to conclude with deep questions of the transcendence that may come when God and Human meet in that most intimate of all contacts.

Science-fiction author Vernor Vinge raises the same issue at one point in his novel Fire Upon the Deep. A protagonist suddenly realizes that the passionate encounter she had the previous night was, in fact, with an artifact --- an agent of a hyperintelligent alien mind.

Did she put on his knowledge with his power
   Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

Terrifying to contemplate....

A coincidental discovery: this note was already titled and almost ready for posting when I happened to glance at a copy of Islam by John Alden Williams (1961). The inside jacket flap begins: "Islam is much more than a formal religion: it is an integral way of life. In many ways it is a more determining factor in the experience of its followers than any other world religion. The Muslim ('One who submits') lives face to face with Allah at all times and will introduce no separation between his life and his religion, his politics and his faith...."

TopicPoetry - TopicArt - TopicFaith - 2001-11-13

(correlates: PowerAnimalia, CountermeasureAndGodshatter, SilenceNotIgnorance, ...)