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The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

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Riley Poynter

on 7 May 2013

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Transcript of The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

"The Second Coming"
By William Butler Yeats William Butler Yeats Historical Context of "The Second Coming" Born on June 13, 1865 in Ireland
Although he moved to England, he kept his cultural ties through much of his poetry
Interested in Irish mythology and legends
Committed to Irish nationalism
Fell in love with Irish nationalist Maud Gonne
Refused more than one marriage proposal of Yeats Poem published in 1919
After the conclusion of World War I
At the time known as "the Great War"
Because of trench warfare and new technology in military, there was an unprecedented amount of death and destruction
More than 30 million casualties
Turmoil reflected in the content of "The Second Coming" 1865-1939 "The Second Coming" Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? Social Context of "The Second Coming" Analysis First Stanza Second Stanza: Part 1 Second Stanza: Part 2 1 Turning and turning in the widening gyre
2 The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
3 Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
4 Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
5 The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
6 The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
7 The best lack all conviction, while the worst
8 Are full of passionate intensity. Personal Life and Influences Attended a formal education, becoming acquainted with classical works
Influenced by ideas of magic and the occult system
Had ambitions in the occult system (aspirations to become a magi): conflicted with ambitions as a poet
Sensitive to art
Believed all living things were connected
These ideas reflected in the focuses of his poetry
Influenced by William Bates and symbolism
Began writing poetry in the late 19th century, then turned to dramas in the early 20th century
Yeats' best poetry was written when he returned to poetry after producing plays
More powerful voice Literary and Religious Influences Accomplishments Considered one of the best poets of the 20th century
Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923 9 Surely some revelation is at hand;
10 Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
11 The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
12 When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
13 Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
14 A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
15 A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
16 Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
17 Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds. 18 The darkness drops again but now I know
19 That twenty centuries of stony sleep
20 Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
21 And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
22 Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? Poem written during the time of the "Lost Generation" of writers
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Ernest Hemingway
Believed in a sense of loss in morals and conviction
Loss of purpose reflected in "The Second Coming"
Uncertainty of the times to come Metaphor- Compares society to a falcon who can't connect with its origin or guidance (the falconer) Irony- It would make sense for the best to have the most conviction and passion and the worst to have the least. However, Yeats proposes the opposite. Allusion- The Second Coming is a reference to the return of Christ from the Bible. However, this allusion is somewhat twisted. Repetition- "The Second Coming" is repeated to show wonder at what the Second Coming will be. Allusion: The use of Bethlehem again references the return of Christ. However, based on the context, Yeats has changed the idea of a savior returning into a "beast" approaching. Metaphor: These lines compare civilization to a sleeping child. They "were vexed to nightmare" because of the destruction of WWI and the chaos that was released into the world. Symbols Overall Theme and Meaning These lines reveal the pessimistic diction and "Lost Generation" attitude of Yeats. He believes that civilization is spiraling out of control into chaos. Allusion- The reference to Spiritus Mundi ("Spirit of the World") reflects Yeats' occult influences. This juxtaposes the allusion to Christianity in the previous lines. Yeats chooses words in these two lines that create an image of rushing water, which reflects more chaos. Reflects the instability and chaos that Yeats sees in the world around him: especially in the aftermath of World War I
Last two lines reveal how he is questioning the morality of the world as well Imagery- These few lines describe a sphinx with an indifferent expression (not what is expected of the comparison to the Second Coming of Christ) and sluggish actions. Symbolism- Desert birds are similar to vultures in that they usually represent and surround death. Describes what the Second Coming will be like
Large difference between what the Second Coming is usually perceived to be and this description Since Yeats poses these last two lines as a question, he is foreshadowing that more than one type of evil may be about to enter the world. Pessimistic use of words and literary devices
Menacing prediction of evil that he believes will enter the world Addresses what makes a person good or evil
Questions whether people are still good if they don't take action
Because of the turmoil in WWI, the spectrum is further skewed
The Second Coming of the beast only foreshadows more evil to come
The Second Coming will not be the restoration of perfection that is imagined
Only a sign of further anarchy and destruction Works Cited "Overview of William Butler Yeats." DISCovering Authors. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Student Resources In Context. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

"Summary of World War I." BBC. British Broadcasting Corporation. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.

"The Second Coming: Analysis." Shmoop. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.

"William Butler Yeats." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Student Resources In Context. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

Yeats, William B. "The Second Coming." The Literature Network. Web. 1 May 2013. Birds
In the first stanza, Yeats uses a falcon to symbolize the world that has been separated from morality.
In the second stanza, Yeats uses "desert birds" to foreshadow the death that is to come.
Sphinx
While the sphinx represents Yeats' version of the second coming, it also symbolizes the indifference that Yeats feels in the world.
Sleep
Because civilization does not wake up, he is symbolizing how the world has not yet "awaken" and seen the magnitude of their actions. Vision of the sphinx ends.
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