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Critically appreciate W.B.

Yeats’s “The Second Coming”

‘The Second Coming’ was written by William Butler Yeats. Yeats was the most famous
Irish metaphysical poet and a great Irish dramatist. As supreme symbolist, He was the
father of the symbolist movement. He was a Noble Prize Winner in 1923, composed some
of the most respected poetry of 20th century. Like T.S. Eliot, he was the initiator of the
20th century poetry. Sir Ifor Evans remarks in his book “A short History of English
Literature”.
“Yeats stands out as the
greatest poetical figure of
the first half of the twentieth
century of a stature beyond
controversy.”
Yeats saw two world wars as a result of it; such things are found in his poem. The
poem ‘The second coming’ derived from ‘Michael Robartes and the Dances’ is an example
of it. It presents terrifying picture of world’s situations as Yeats saw in 1919. It also shows a
prophecy coming of destructive obscure figure and the reversal of Christian values.

Background
The Widespread murder and bloodshed in Ireland consequent upon the Easter
Rebellion of 1916. Its aftermaths filled Yeats with gloomy foreboding. ‘The Second
Coming’ written in 1919 derives its significance from Yeats inner gloom. We find
destructive God has already knocked at our doors. Everywhere we find the problems of
terrorism, war and ethnic violence. The poem is highly relevant with modern
era. According to A.S. Collins.
“Yeats in ‘The second coming
saw anarchy rising in bloody
violence to inaugurate a new
and bestial age.”

Title of the poem


In the all work of English literature, title is always very apt and suggestive. It always
taken from central idea, theme or a hero. In this poem, the title ‘The Second Coming’ is
thematic and apt. Yeats speaks of the contempory anarchy in Ireland. Yeats feels that the
period of 2000 years of Christianity is drawing to close and new obscure figure is coming
to overwhelm the world. It would be the second coming. The title suggests new
incarnation of God in this Dark Age who would destroyed everything. In this way, title of
this poem is appropriate.

Critical Summary of “The Second Coming”


The poem is divided into two sections. First Sections (first eight lines) shows the
barrenness of the world and problem of the modern society. Yeats tries to present
frustrated mind of modern man and tell that modern man dissatisfied and burning
himself. He also shows lost of moral and spiritual values in modern society. Lost of
obedience and order is seen; innocence and faith also gone. It brings chaos in the world.
Yeat’s following lines present a realistic picture of Nihilism and remind us Nietzsche’s
philosophy statement ‘God is dead’.
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
Falcon can not hear the Falconer;
Things fall apart, the centre can not hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”
The poet compares civilization with rotating gyre. As soon as its circumferences
widens it looses the centre. Like a gyre 20th century men have lost centre of universe.
Intellect sciences, technology, rationalism is taking us towards destruction.The innocent
men have to bear tension gloom and melancholy condition. They have lost faith while the
musses are fanatical irrational and violent. As he says,
“The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.”
Then In the second section, Yeats becomes a very optimist and shows the remedy of
the poem. These all decadence and disorders as mentioned below implies that a new
civilization is about to be born. He says,
“Surely some revelation is at hand,
Surely the second coming is at hand.”
As soon as the thought of ‘Second coming’ flashes across the poet’s mind, he sees a
vast image coming out from spiritus Mundi-a kind of store house in Yeats philosophy. It
has the body of lion and head of a man like Egyptian Sphinx. We should compare this
imagination with the myth of ‘Narsinha incarnation in the Hingu religion’.
The poet sees his eyes were pitiless like a sun. The poet has thought that from
20th century, it was taking shape and now to be in cradle. It is moving slowly towards
Bethlehem – the birth place of Christ as if it were too would be born there. Yeats shows a
terrifying picture of world in the last lines.
“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last.
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.

Poetic style of W.B.Yeats:


As far as poetic style is concerned, the poem is remarkable. There is no division of
stanza. No regular rhyme and rhythm because it is free verse poem. The poem is full of
alliteration, simile, and metaphor.
Alliteration:
1. Turning and turning in the widening gyre. 2. Falconer can not hear the falconer.
Simile:-:-
A shape with lion body and head of a man’ A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun.
Metaphors:-
1. Widening gyre, 2. Stony sleep 3. Anarchy is loosed 4. Blood dimmed tide.
Symbolism
Symbolism is the distinguishing trait of Yeat’s poetic style as he was a father of
symbolistic movement. He uses many references and symbols in the poem. ‘Falcon can
not hear the falconer’ symbolizes weakening of Christianity. ‘A shape with lion body and
head of a man’ shows evil violence and an anti-Christ movement. ‘What rough
beast’ symbolizes the brutal force?
Moreover the repeated phrase and the simple and terrible effective image convey
Yeat’s moment of concentrated and amazed vision. In the grammatically way and the
style poem passes very nicely.

Conclusion
To summing up, ‘The Second Coming’ contains horrors vision of the destruction of
the world and the prophecy of infinite cruelty and agony. It is a dark, pessimistic poem as
well as realistic and prophetic poem. The influence of war is seen in the poem. Each and
every line of the poem describes the situation of the people of present time. At once it has
strong intellectual appeal, is weighted with thought, compactness and economy of
expression. It can be compare with Yeat’s another poem ‘A Vision’ Finally to conclude in
the words of A.S Collins,
“In ‘The Second coming’,
the power of seer came
upon him and prophesied
the dawn of an evil age.”