Loren’s Swan Song

Blake’s picture of Leda borrowed from Jeff’s page:

If this was the image I had in mind when I read Kizer’s poem about Roethke, I probably would have come away with a very different reading.

Luckily, I had recently read my grandson Gavin the story of “The Ugly Duckling” and held in my mind the image of the ugly duckling that each of us sees in ourselves as a child being magically transformed into the beautiful swan that each of us truly can be if we but recognize it within ourselves. Anyway, that’s the swan I want to be, not the one Blake captured in the above print.

No, this is the portrait of ultimate despair. Look at those eyes. Only someone who has unfairly chastised his dog or has watched a favorite pet suffer, could truly identify with the anguish in those eyes.

Perhaps it is as Jeff points out: “And as both Blake and Yeats conjecture, it’s also possible that after the rape Gods and humans might share each others characteristics, as Blake has so aptly drawn.”

If that is true, then Blake’s Leda seems to be caught in the awful moment of realizing she is:
half saint
half harlot
united in one

It’s hard to imagine any greater sorrow than to have that holy half tied down to the vulgar earth, no longer able to rise above bodily desires, and all of this brought about through no fault of her own, her only sin a beauty so profound that even the god’s lust for it.

What this powerful print does show, though, is the ability of the true artist to employ a symbol to convey the meaning he desires. Symbols are merely tools, and in the hands of masters they are powerful tools to convey their vision of the world.