In the poem “The Second Coming” Yeats used Christian imagery from the Bible in regards to the Book of Revelations to describe what he feels as the Apocalypse and the second coming. “The Second Coming” is a poem written about how good and evil is in an eternal cycle; as one expands, the other contracts. This poem is a result of Yeats’ reaction to the future of his people after World War I. He uses strong symbolisms in this poem that not only make you feel what he is feeling but it also depicts the transition and movement of good and evil over time using the gyre, falcon, blood-dimmed tide, ceremony of innocence, sphinx and the desert birds. The first stanza of the poem describes how things are falling apart after the war (the world is doomed, there’s anarchy everywhere) and then the second stanza is about the second coming but not of Christ, rather of an evil being.
The gyre seems to be the main focus of this poem. Yeats used gyres often in his poems to symbolize the cycles of life that he thought occurs every two thousand years. In this poem the eternal cycle/gyre is the representation of “the primary…and the antithetical…Christ Jesus was the primary dispensation and the coming now dispensation – not the covenant – will be antithetical” (Murphy 103). The falcon in the story is representing the expansion of the good being at its peak “Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ the falcon cannot hear the falconer” (Yeats 1-2) and the coming of the beast is the new age. The falcon straying from the falconer also symbolizes how Yeats felt about the future of his people after the war. Harrison best described this by saying that “the separation from man and bird offers a striking image of social and cultural disintegration, not from a single loss of communication, in itself redeemable and lacking the symbolic dimension required for the anarchic forcesit heralds, but from Yeats’ anguish at the disruption of the order and cohesion…of the society he
Cited: Brunner, Larry. Tragic Victory: The Doctrine of Subjective Salvation in the Poetry of W.B. Yeats. Troy, New York: The Whitson Publishing Company, 1987. Web. 26 Oct 2011. Harrison, John. “What Rough Beast? Nietzsche and Historical Rhetoric in “The Second Coming” ”. Papers on Language and Literature. 31.4(1995): 362. Web. 26 Oct 2011. Murphy, Russell E. “ The Rough Beast and Historical Necessity: A New Consideration of Yeats’ “The Second Coming” ”. Studies in the Literary Imagination. 14.1 (1981):101-110. Web. 26 Oct 2011. Yeats, William Butler. The Second Coming. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Edgar V Roberts and Robert Zweig. 10th edition. New York: Pearson Longman, 2010. Pg.1002. Print.