Leda and the Colour Purple


Where the slow river 

meets the tide, 

a red swan lifts red wings 

and darker beak, 

and underneath the purple down 

of his soft breast 

uncurls his coral feet.


Through the deep purple 

of the dying heat 

of sun and mist, 

the level ray of sun-beam 

has caressed 

the lily with dark breast, 

and flecked with richer gold 

its golden crest.


Where the slow lifting 

of the tide, 

floats into the river 

and slowly drifts 

among the reeds, 

and lifts the yellow flags, 

he floats 

where tide and river meet.


Ah kingly kiss -- 

no more regret 

nor old deep memories 

to mar the bliss; 

where the low sedge is thick, 

the gold day-lily 

outspreads and rests 

beneath soft fluttering 

of red swan wings 

and the warm quivering 

of the red swan's breast.


Hilda Doolittle

Leda and the Colour Purple