translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s ‘Leda’
And when the god possessed the swan, from need,
and found it beautiful, that terrified
him. Wholly shocked, he disappeared inside
it, but his trickery drove him toward his deed
before he could explore what that life must
have been like, though untried. Open to him,
she understood at once; at once saw through him:
this swan who’d come was asking just
one thing, which she, confused in her resisting,
could hide no more. The god came down, his white
neck pushing past her weakening hand. Insisting,
the god let go, and gave his love his strength,
finding his plumes—at last—a pure delight,
then turned true swan inside her womb at length.
Len Krisak‘s books include complete translations of Virgil’s Eclogues and Horace’s Odes. With work in The Antioch Review, The Hudson Review, and The Sewanee Review, he is a four-time champion on Jeopardy!