William Butler Yeats was considered to be one of the most important symbolists of the 20th Century. Believed to have been influenced by the French symbolist movement of the 19th Century, his poems incorporated symbols as a means of representing mystical, dream-like and abstract ideals. This was especially prevalent towards the latter part of his life when, inspired by his wife Georgiana Hyde-Lees, he developed a symbolic system which theorized movements through major cycles of history in his book A Vision (1925, 1937). “The Wild Swans at Coole” and “The Second Coming” are poems of Yeats’ which incorporate symbols, and will be discussed in this essay.
In A Vision, Yeats speaks of “gyres” as his term for a spiralling motion in the shape of a cone. These gyres are important symbols in Yeats’ poetry, and especially in “The Second Coming”, being mentioned in the very first line (“turning and turning in the widening gyre”). The gyres function as a symbol alluding to something which could be subjective to the reader. It could be prophetically interpreted to mean that mankind and life itself is spiralling into self-destruction. This idea is reflected in the first few lines of the poem:
“The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”
The symbol of the gyre is being continued through the image of the falcon, as it spirals above the falconer, getting further and further from the centre until eventually the falcon cannot hear the calls of its master. The phrase “Things fall apart” could easily be interpreted as referring to the destruction of the physical world itself, and the use of the verb “loosed” is effective as it personifies the “anarchy”, conjuring up the image of a monster or a beast which is to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting world. The phrase “the centre cannot hold” is reflective of... [continues]
Cite This Essay
(2010, 12). W.B Yeats & Great War Poets Symbolism. StudyMode.com. Retrieved 12, 2010, from http://www.studymode.com/essays/W-b-Yeats-Great-War-Poets-525552.html
"W.B Yeats & Great War Poets Symbolism" StudyMode.com. 12 2010. 12 2010 <http://www.studymode.com/essays/W-b-Yeats-Great-War-Poets-525552.html>.
"W.B Yeats & Great War Poets Symbolism." StudyMode.com. 12, 2010. Accessed 12, 2010. http://www.studymode.com/essays/W-b-Yeats-Great-War-Poets-525552.html.