William Butler Yeats was born in 1865 in Dublin and died in the year 1939. He was born to a lawyer father who also dubbed as a portrait painter. He got educated in London and Dublin. He became a protestant and later a portrait; he believed to be among the greatest poets in his time. Coming from Anglo-Irish minority, a community that dominated Ireland’s national issues like economy and politics, Yeats did not stick to the English roots but to his cultural roots and remained firm in upholding his artistic image. He wrote poems that basically featured plays, legends and heroes from Ireland. He was frequently accused of elitism which ironically and unquestionably added to his greatness. This paper will discuss about William Butler and his poem “The Second Coming,” and his literary works.
Yeats was not only a playwright but was also thought to be the greatest poet in his time. Yeats (1865-1939) remains the best poet of literary renaissance of Ireland which boosted the ideologies of the nation in the early twentieth century. In1921; “Second Coming” was published in a collection just as the Great War started (1914-1918). It was amazingly prophetic of genocides of the country’ and Butler laments about the innocence lost and points to the Christians second coming which he thought would be terrible arouse. He asserts that this is the end times when Jesus Christ will come back on earth the second time (Detweiler and Jasper, 121).
The Second Coming
The title “Second Coming” is ironic. The Christian hope of Christ’s return in chapter 24 of the book of Mathew is the main theme that is implied in the title. The beast and the Sphinx are unconquerable unlike the beast in the book of Revelation. The ‘gyre’ is a term used in the poem to refer to 2000 years, which occured in circles or singly called turns of time. The troubles that arose from the war in early twentieth century, World War I, was evidence enough to make him conclude that the two thousand years era since the birth of Christ was soon drawing to an end (Harvey, 132).
The poem unfolds adorning light heartedly “the gyres!” thus bringing to light a dispensation considered new. One of the styles used in poem is allusion. This is seen from “Old Rocky Face” that seems to amaze readers. Yeats invites to be witness on the excitement cry brought about by gyres in the opening line. In the Second Coming, which is implied in the line ‘Beatific Vision’ is said by Ross to be a mathematical form which the Judwalis. Judwalis is fixed across all races of humanity or as persons from the beginning to the end. It is said that all this shall take place to every intellect at one time.
The poem talks of the rise of antithetical influx when Christ is born which will be similar to tinctures on interchange. The taking place of the influx above whose intellectual preparation has already commenced will systematically come to an end at the climax of intelligence. Although Christ’s primary era is seen as unifying, humane, dogmatic leveling and peaceful, its end will be a beginning of a hierarchal, masculine, expressive and harsh antithetical era. Yeats uses the beast, sphinx, to describe this later era as a mythic and physical symbol. According to Ross, the prediction given by Yeats concerning the next revelation of Christ’s second coming may not come within the next two thousand years .Yeats views annunciation pointing to antithetical age pangs, Trojan war which was induced by the birth of Christ, Leda’s rape and our century racing some an unknown event as the three basic and important events f the world. These events introduced a new cycle of civilization and thus tending to abolish the order already established (David, 222).
Jay Paring (1115) says the poem indicates the opinion of Yeats on the curtailment of republican forces by the troops of Britain in Ireland during the Tan and Black war. The events on Christ’s second coming in Mathew 24, and the antichrist’s arrival depicted in verse 2 of the first letter of John form the source from which the title is derived. The widening gyre referred to here means the stretching of time to a point in which violence will rise to a historical new era. The poem also identifies Bethlehem as the birth place of Christ, as well as that of the Antichrist whose main historical role is to begin the new era.
In a brief analysis of the poem, Harmon (853-854) says that Yeats creates trouble to which he struggling with in the world viewed by many as modern is war. He argues that the poem is ironical in that it foretells of a terrible beast reappearing instead of the expected peace associated with Christ’s second coming. Again, the title of the poem ‘Second Coming’ can be said to point to an event in the future when Jesus Christ is hoped to come a second time. With this reason Yeats, Allison and Harrington (42) terms it a visionary poem. However, it should be noted that the poem talks about a very different issue. This poem actually has the same meaning as that in the poem ‘The Valley of the Black Pig.’ This poem foresees terrible future events which will be marked by bloodshed and chaos that causes it. The birth of a rough beast looking like sphinx in a frightening vision and seen in the desert walking and plodding stealthily heading to Bethlehem is also foreseen. The kind of world that will be in place after the birth of this dreadful creature cannot be visualized.
Visual symbol were used by Yeats in a mastery manner to sell his ideas abroad. The Irish poet uses symbols and the emotional element which they drive in the poem ‘The second Coming’. According to Zaragoza (May 27, 2009) there is the use of an image of disaster, implied when the falcon, grows wider and wider defying the call to safety, seemingly growing out of control. The centre of the spiral alluded to here may be talking about the society busting its shores and becoming out of control. She adds that ‘Mere Anarchy’ may either refer to confusion itself or the one once camouflaged by civilization which is now not existing but surprisingly still binding. Part of the people will commit anarchy while others are will be held captive by the consequences of that commission without themselves being anarchists. In that case a man must seek change by his own nature. The beginning of history and human consciousness goes back to the beginning which Yeats terms as ‘Spiritus Mundi’. Am other image used is that of a lion with a man’s head. This extract directly alludes to the revelation in the Bible’s book of revelation. The lion is known for its great predation power and strength and authority. The head means intellect and it refers to man but ironically a man without any personification that can make anyone be attracted to him.
The poem communicates that unattractive to us about amazing creatures and keeps closer and closer and when it reaches its destination, it will cause death. This refers to the death of outdated ideologies after which the destiny of man begins in another widening gyre. From her point of view, there is nothing that cannot the change foretold by Yeats’ poem. Neither nature nor time can put a halt to it. She wonders if Yeats would prefer the ‘nightmare’ probably meaning newness leading to annoyance of ancient times. Thus the feeling of disaster that becomes dreadful when change is about to unfold is enhanced by Yeats use of vivid and rich symbols.
William Butler Yeats is actually a great poet born in an influential Anglo-Irish community to a talented painter, a famed artist and orator father. He lived a renowned playwright and one of the greatest poets in the twentieth century. His popular poem “The Second Coming” drew a lot of controversy and admiration across the globe. Its title foretells the second coming of Jesus Christ to mark the end of the world with an expectation to bring peace and happiness. However, he ironically talks about a terrifying sphinx and hence does not give hope to the end of the world.