The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

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For example, Woody Allen titled his recent book as ‘Mere Anarchy’. (Harmon, (1998) William Butler Yeats, besides being a poet of great repute, played a very active role in Irish politics at the time it was trying to gain its independence from England. As a poet he wrote poems on a wide range of subjects such as Irish folklore, and on many other uplifting themes. Even before his poem ‘The Second Coming’ got published, Yeat’s had become quite famous and even received ‘The Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923 for his highly inspiring poetry and contribution to literature. The mysterious symbolism that he uses in his poems is very meaningful as it is attractive to people from different walks of life, regardless of their personal political views or social standing. The poem reflects the deterioration of European society following the destruction and death of millions of European people. In fact, Yeat’s poem is viewed as a sort of prediction of the violence to follow. The emergence of Hitler who brought in fascism during the 1930’s and the wars that followed proved the poem to be highly prophetic during the 20th century. Yeat’s vision was to steer society away from destruction and shift it back to its strong traditional values and usher in a new order. The opening line of Stanza 1 starts with the image of a falcon in the distance. The falcon is shown to have flown too far away and hence it has got lost in the sky without a glimmer of hope of its return. In those days, when means of transport was hard to come by, people made use of birds such as falcons and hawks at the ground level to help them track animals. In the poem, the falcon is shown to have flown away very far and gets lost in the sky. The poet uses simple yet stylistic language to draw a correlation between the falcon that has lost itself and cannot find its way back to its master, and the collapse of traditional, cultural and social values in Europe during the time W.B Yeats wrote this poem. This correlation can be seen in the following lines – Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer. Yeats makes use of the image of a ‘gyre’ to get his point across. Being a spiral, the gyre opens outwards as it rises up and this motion of the gyre is what correlates with the instability and chaos of history as it moves. In regular circumstances, when a falconer sends out a falcon, he watches and waits with his falconer glove, for its return. Inevitably, the falcon always returns and comes back to its mater and sits on his glove. But in the poem, the poet has portrayed the falcon as flying too far off and getting itself lost. The following 4 lines in Stanza I, highlights violence and terror in the world and to give expression to his thoughts Yeat’s uses harsh phrases like – ‘Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold’, ‘Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world’, ‘blood-dimmed’ and ‘innocence drowned’. (Yeats W.B, ‘The Second Coming’) These lines bring out a situation of terror and violence and a feeling that there is a gush of water all around, drowning the innocence left in society, leaving people in despair and a bleak hope of survival. In the next two lines, Yeat’s uses comparison and contrast pitted against each other.