by William Butler Yeats (1865 - 1939)
Translation © by Pierre Mathé

A sudden blow: the great wings beating...
Language: English 
Available translation(s): FRE
A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in the 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?

About the headline (FAQ)

First published in Dial, June 1924

Confirmed with W. B. Yeats, The Tower, Macmillan and Co., St. Martin Street, London, 1928, page 51.


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Available translations, adaptations, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website: 2009-01-19
Line count: 15
Word count: 113

Un coup soudain : les grandes ailes...
Language: French (Français)  after the English 
Un coup soudain : les grandes ailes battent encore
Au-dessus de la fille chancelante, ses cuisses caressées 
Par les sombres palmes, sa nuque prise dans le bec,
Il tient sa poitrine sans défense contre sa poitrine.

Comment ces doigts imprécis terrifiés peuvent-ils repousser
Le glorieux volatile de ses cuisses se desserrant ?
Et comment le corps, étendu sous cette blanche ruée,
Ne sentirait ce cœur étrange battre là où il gît ?

Une palpitation dans les reins engendre ici
Le mur rasé, le toit et la tour en feu
Et Agamemnon mort.
                                  Ainsi prise,
Ainsi maîtrisée par le brutal sang de l'éther,
A-t-elle mis son savoir avec son pouvoir
Avant que le bec indifférent la laisse choir ?

About the headline (FAQ)

Translation of title "Leda and the Swan" = "Léda et le cygne"


  • Translation from English to French (Français) copyright © 2016 by Pierre Mathé, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.

Based on


This text was added to the website: 2016-01-04
Line count: 15
Word count: 118