William Butler Yeats, a multi talented 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.
... though Beowulf can be both pagan or Christian, one must override the other. Beowulf is a Christian epic, Christianity overrides Paganism, for the storyline ... -Christian then it is a pagan story. Also, pagans believe in myths. Since, Christians believe in one God and truth, then the pagans believe in many gods ...
As the world turned towards paganism so did Yeats. The poem, while on one level is an earnest description of the change that is occurring to mankind, it is also an earnest illustration of his change to paganism. The opening eight lines illustrate the strife Yeats had seen in his lifetime from a Christian point of view. They describe man as moving away from God in a desperate tone, obviously not written by a pagan.
Upon his cries to God in line 9 and 10, however, he comes into what could be described as a communion with the Spiritus Mundi. He receives a vision from the spirit of man in the same way that one would supposedly receive a vision from the Holy Spirit and is converted. After his vision he uses the phrase “now I know,” which suggests knowledge from some higher power similar to divine wisdom. In this new light we can assume that Yeats was relaxed with the idea that since there is no good or evil in the world, only what is natural (Nature is like a cycle), there is no need to be worried by events such as those that are taking place. Furthermore, there then is no need to feel guilt for one’s actions. After his vision Yeats is sure of two things: that history is repeating itself, even if the new era is an altered form of the old one, and that he is a member of the “new paganism.” This explains the awe that fills the poem in its closing.
An illustration of a rebirth into Paganism will be filled more with fear and awe than love for this reason: Christianity worships God in his love as a being of supreme good, but pagans worship the spirit of the world as a being of supreme power. Furthermore, his cadence in the last phase of the poem implies that he is almost speaking with reverence to the spiritus mundi and a quite disdain for what he sees as a flaw in Christianity. This brings us to the final two lines in “The Second Coming”, “And what rough beast, its hour come ’round at last/ slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” This first sums up the poems theme of a “Second Coming” of paganism as opposed to Christ. Secondly, however, are the implications of the statement.
... have predicted the end was coming based on the societal conditions they were experiencing. ... believe that the prophecy of Revelations must be coming. There have been people all through time who ... of a lion and the head of a man, slinking across the desert with vultures circling around ... the poem takes a much more frightening tone beginning with the description of the shape. The way Yeats ...
The book of revelations says that in his second coming Christ will not be born humbly among men, but to come to the world in full glory. But Yeats, since he has already established the true nature of this second coming, now returns to this prophecy, pointing out that it had been partially right, that the figure of the coming would not be born humbly. But it seems that he half suggests the reason why this is true is because of an inherent weakness in Christianity. He seems to imply that Paganism, a brutal and powerful force, would not stoop to a meek coming that of Jesus. The previous line referring to Christianity as a “rocking cradle”, the calmness of which stirred the spiritus mundi, suggests that Yeats had come to view Christianity as week and its innocence as idealistic and impractical in the real world, in which the spiritus mundi can promise satisfaction and earthly fulfillment. Imagery is really strong in this poem.
The first two images are complimentary. The spinning gyre, producing dizziness, and the lost falcon, which cannot answer the calls it is trained for, it is lost. In a sense, power is useless. The imagery of the second part is much less specific. It is general anarchy. The third part contains the key image of the poem.
The Second coming is not the triumphant return of Christ, but the reawakening of the pre Christian era Its representative is the powerful, half animal sphinx. Its body is that of a lion, only the head of a man is left. Man’s thoughts would be mixed with the pre-human power of the lion’s claws. The “indignant desert birds” are the expendable “shadows”, the weak humans cowering before terror, not completely understanding it.
Finally, the poem focuses on the speakers own mind, via the falling “darkness.” It is knowledge that it being given to the reader. The power of the “twenty centuries of stony sleep” was woken by a “rocking cradle.” The poem is flooded with repetition. “Turning and turning”, “falcon and falconer”, “loosed and loosed”, “surely and surely”, and “the second coming and the second coming!” It also includes Alliteration “surely some”, “stony sleep.” Onomatopoeia is also on display “vexed”, “slouches.” The piece also includes some simile “blank and pitiless as the sun”, and metaphor “stony sleep.” The tone is set early on in the poem. It opens with a neutral tone; the non-realistic imagery makes the opening disengaged. The impact of the first two lines is not lent by tone, but by their peculiarity and imagery.
... who is really ambitious and kills opponents to his ideas. Imagery Through out the book Animal Farm, George Orwell uses examples ... popular support through his ideas and his eloquence. ” The tone Orwell creates all refers back to the Russian Revolution, Napoleon ... people can be manipulated by the abuse of propaganda. Tone Orwell creates an indignant tone throughout the classic Animal Farm. The indignant ...
The sense of devastation that pervades the poem is introduced in the second part, it is explicitly stated that “things fall apart”, and this is further emphasized by the words “anarchy”, “blood-dimmed tide”, “passionate intensity.” However, the poem itself, which is so far dealing in abstractions, lacks this passionate intensity. Its tone could be described as anxious. In conclusion, “The Second Coming” is about William Butler Yeats belief in Paganism. He vividly describes this religion and compares it to Christianity in his poem. This message although hidden can be uncovered through careful analysis and patient reading. This poem is Yeats way of telling people that the world will start to switch to paganism and as he already did at the time of writing this great piece of work..