A Plea and Prayer: “Swan Upon Leda”

By Cat Kemp

TW: mention of rape and SA

Providing political commentary on the current status of women’s reproductive rights in Ireland, Hozier’s latest release “Swan Upon Leda” conveys his disapproval through a Greek myth. Ireland has recently banned use of all abortion medication and banning abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy. These acts created an uproar for women’s rights throughout the country and in the media. Hozier’s song “Swan Upon Leda” provides commentary on his opinions of these harsh restrictions. For example, the second verse of the beautifully written song reads as follows: 

A grandmother smuggling meds

Past where the god-child soldier, Sétanta, stood dead

Our graceful turner of heads

Weaves through the checkpoints like a needle and thread

Someone’s frightened boy waves her on

She offers a mother’s smile and soon, she’s gone

The first line refers to abortion medication, in response to the inability to purchase the medicine within the country. As seen in the second line, Sententa is an Irish myth of a heroic soldier and protector, and is also a figure of Irish nationalism. This verse goes to show how Hozier believes Ireland has strayed from their values and no longer stands for protecting all of their citizens. Hozier uses similar references throughout the song to show the true severity and perpetuation of the systematic flaws seen throughout the country and the world. 

The song overall, however, is based on the Greek Myth of Zeus taking the form of a swan to seduce an already-married mother, and then rape her. The myth of Leda and Zeus perfectly parallels the real-world by representing how men go through great measures to control women. After being raped by Zeus, Leda became pregnant with his daughter, Helen of Troy, and she was then forced to birth her along with two kids after. The song shows how that system of violence and forcing women into unjust situations has been perpetuated by the media and now by government systems such as the one in Ireland. 

“Swan Upon Leda,” along with many activists and other parties have been working to show how much effort has been placed into controlling a women’s ability to give birth or choose not to do so, when it was never anyone else’s decision to make nor right to control. That right solely rests on each individual woman, and Hozier’s new song describes everything in a beautifully coherent way.