Despair in Yeats Poetry

Topics: Second Coming of Christ, World War I, Maitreya Pages: 3 (1127 words) Published: March 19, 2013
In the terms of hope and despair ‘The Second Coming’ is a particularly interesting focal point by which we empathise with Yeats’ despair at the breakdown of humanity and it affect on society (in particular Ireland). Conversely one may suggest that the concept of a ‘Second Coming‘ implies that Yeats feels hope for the future, as the title clearly alludes to the return of Christ thus suggesting the salvation of humanity. ‘September 1913’ is another poem in which Yeats expresses his despair at the changing society at the hands of the merciless middle class. The final poem that I will comment on is ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’ in which Yeats both airs hope and despair. The despair in this poem is largely based around the inevitability of death, and death for a meaningless cause. However hope is also conveyed in the bliss that the Airman finds in his journey into the skies, implying that he enjoys the solitary freedom of flying and therefore does not fear death.

‘The Second Coming’ is the most fruitful poem in the terms of hope and despair. It was written in 1919, shortly after World War One, which sets the tone of despair as Yeats is disgusted at humanities violent capabilities. The imagery of the ‘widening gyre’ indicates a building up of destruction within society, implying that a meltdown is imminent. As the ‘gyre’ widens it moves further and further away from an initial point, which represents civilized behavior. This creates a sense of despair, as the imagery suggests that order cannot be salvaged. Yeats refers to ‘mere anarchy’ being ‘loosed upon the world’, referencing the way that War can tear apart civilizations. This is reinforced by the fragmented rhyme scheme which reflects the breaking down of order. Yeats also uses the despairing imagery of ‘the falcon can no longer hear the falconer’ this image conveys man no longer being able to control the beast within them. Yeats reinforces this concept with ‘Falcon’ being the subject of the line...
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