“Swan Upon Leda” by Hozier

Hozier’s “Swan Upon Leda” is a song which, most simply explained, speaks to the world being in a less-than-ideal state. The lyrics utilized herein are by and large metaphorical and therefore, to a significant degree, up to listener interpretation. 

But Hozier has revealed that “Swan Upon Leda” was inspired by one Mona Eltahawy, who is a women’s rights’ activist from Egypt. More specifically there’s a quote she made concerning said issue which compelled the Irish singer to pen this piece.

Hozier talks about the inspiration behind "Swan Upon Leda"

Said quote reads along the lines of ‘the world’s oldest form of occupation being systems that control and endanger women’. And the way Hozier has interpreted that statement, in context, is largely in connection to the US Supreme Court’s recent decision to allow individual states the right to decide whether they want to keep abortion legal or not. 

As such, the verses especially can be understood as dealing with that topic. Furthermore for the record, Hozier has gone as far as to announce, upon the release of this track, that he will be making donations to a couple of NGOs which facilitate at-home abortions.

But as far as the verses of this song, if understood so, go, they are not actually advocating abortion. Indeed the first verse reads as if the vocalist is empathetic to all parties involved, including the fetus. 

The second is centered on “a grandmother smuggling meds” which are, presumably, to induce abortions. Again Hozier comes off as if, in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t the type of situation that anyone, even law enforcement, would actually want to be involved in.

Swan Upon Leda

But then the chorus steers the listener in a, let’s say more-macrocosmic direction. For instance, it has been ascertained that the “swan upon Leda” is actually a reference to a mythical tale more commonly known as Leda and the Swan

As the story goes, Zeus, the patriarch god who has no qualms about bonking mortals, took on the form of said bird and used the opportunity to rape Leda. 

So all things considered, that reference, which is found in the chorus, is the most-overt way in which Hozier is connecting this song to a subject like the universal oppression of women.

Hozier, "Swan Upon Leda" Lyrics

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

But then directly after that, he proceeds to drop an analogy pointing to the State of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. As far as we can tell, that issue doesn’t have anything to do with global patriarchy per se. 

So amidst griping about a completely different issue, apparently Hozier wanted to get that one off also.

The Takeaway

But to reiterate in closing, the lyrics of this song are highly metaphorical. They are so metaphorical that certain sections, such as the outro, haven’t even been touched in this analysis. 

But putting all of the above points together, it appears as if the vocalist ruminating on the plight of women, specifically within the context of Hozier being a present-day pro-abortionist. And that has motivated the singer to also look at the state of the world at large.

Release of “Swan Upon Leda”

Its been awhile since we’ve heard from Hozier prior to the release of “Swan Upon Leda” (which came out on 7 October 2022).

Prior to this, the last single Hozier dropped was 2020’s “The Parting Glass”. That said, it should be noted that he was featured on Meduza’s 2021 outing “Tell It to My Heart”.

“Swan Upon Leda” is from Hozier’s third studio album titled “Unreal Unearth”. It is actually the album’s lead single.


Hozier wrote “Swan Upon Leda”. He also produced the track. However, in that latter regard, he shares credits with Jennifer Decilveo.

Swan Upon Leda

5 Responses

  1. HS says:

    In Yeat’s open Leda and the swan, the swan raping Leda is a metaphor for England occupying and raping Ireland. Thus the references in the song to more global instances of oppression.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The assumption that “empire upon Jerusalem/occupier upon ancient land” is a direct reference specifically to Israel/Palestine apartheid is quite weak, it’s referencing *all* the empires throughout history who have tried to claim Jerusalem (of which Israel is simply the latest) which has been attacked, captured and besieged perhaps more than any other city in history, as a CONTINUED metaphor for the historical abuse of women, not a random segue into a different topic.

  3. Anonymous says:


  4. Mercedes says:

    Abortion rights are connected to the song’s theme of the oppression and control of women. However, seeing as Hozier was already RECORDING the song when Roe was overturned, it’s obviously not ABOUT that. And you can’t go from pointing out that he has sympathy for the fetus to calling him “pro-abortion.” There’s a difference between pro-abortion and pro-abortion rights. Very few people are “pro-abortion.”

    Hozier said; “I wrote ‘Swan Upon Leda’ in Ireland a year ago and recorded it recently with producer Jenn Decilveo. We were tracking it in studio when the news came through of Roe vs. Wade being overturned. I felt there was an opportunity to offer some show of solidarity.”

  5. Izabela says:

    It’s also about child marriage, I’m pretty sure about, and children wives being forced to giving birth to their own children.

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