The Second Coming by William Yeats

Topics: William Butler Yeats, Holy Spirit, Jesus Pages: 3 (1288 words) Published: April 1, 2005
William Butler Yeats, a multitalented individual won the Nobel Prize in 1923. Born the son of a well known Irish painter and religious skeptic had many influences in his life. Eventually, he converted to Paganism from Christianity. He is till this day considered one of the greatest poets that ever lived. To understand the meaning of William Butler Yeats poem "The Second Coming", you must first understand the difference between Christianity and Paganism. Yeats was raised as a Christian and turned to pagan mysticism later in his life. Therefore, we can find the subject of this poem by tracing his flow of thought through Christianity up to the point when he diverged from it. Christianity is based around the soul. The soul becomes healthy by its removal from the sin, which it inherits in the world. A healthy or virtuous soul is close to God by contact with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can be considered the spirit of God on earth. Jesus Christ is thought to be the embodiment of the Holy Spirit, therefore the embodiment of virtue. In contrast, Pagans worship the spirit of earth as a god, believing it to be the ultimate force, which is neither good nor evil. The religion states the more base human tendencies that Christians would call sinful would be glorified as the reflections of nature. These would include pursuits of pleasure, luxury, or sexual gratification. Many modern pagans especially the ones Yeats associated with do not dispute the ideas of Christianity concerning God but they do not worship him. Early leaders of this movement, like Alister Crowley, with whom Yeats was associated with considered themselves Satanists in this right since Christians equate the spirit of the world with the devil. Yeats was certainly a Christian at some point in his life and makes allusions to Christian faith in "The Second Coming", which would indicate that he lends some credence to it, so we can assume that he took the Satanist point of view. As the world turned towards...
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