The Second Coming

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In William Yeats’ The Second Coming, the speaker shows his recognition of the degeneration of the world and turns the traditional biblical allusion of the Second Coming upside-down to incarnate his fear of what that degeneration might cause. The speaker imagines that the frightening state of current affairs will lead to a second coming of the messiah which will be far more gruesome than the first. The speaker uses figurative language and paradox in the first stanza to describe the injustice in the present world. In a metaphor, the speaker compares society to a bird of prey stating, “The falcon cannot hear the falconer.” The biblical allusion in the poem’s title hints that the body of The Second Coming may carry religious themes as well. Therefore, the falcon in this metaphor represents the citizens of the world while the falconer signifies God, who rules over and guides the people. Just as the falcon cannot hear its master the people of the world cannot hear their supreme lord, evidencing how out have touch humanity has become and how much it has devolved. Similarly, the speaker uses paradox to acknowledge the extent to which the world has declined. He says that, “The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” This seemingly contradictory statement shows that society has deteriorated because the best citizens so not care enough to stand up for their passions while the evil are fervent in their endeavors. In turn, the worst has been turned upside-down and the good no longer triumph. The speaker’s confident recognition of society’s regression leads him or her to imagine the Second Coming of a messianic figure far more wicked and merciless than described in The Bible. Using imagery and figurative language, the speaker portrays the severity of this Day of Judgment. The Messiah that comes to judge the world is described using imagery as, “ A shape with a lion body and the head of a male.” By illustrating the savior as a sphinx-like...
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