What are the main themes in Yeats``Second Coming`?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The poem `The Second Coming`by William Butler Yeats invokes both traditional Christian iconography and a mystical account of the world set forth by Yeats himself in his book A Vision, which identifies the world as existing in a set of recurring cycles, called gyres.

The notion of a second coming in traditional Christianity is take from Revelation, and presumes that at some point in the future, Jesus Christ will return to the world to judge both the living and the dead. This return will be preceded by an apocalyptic period in which various disasters are unleashed upon the world, including the four beasts. Many of the prophesies in Revelation are set in the environment of the Holy Land, and represent a return of Jesus for his second coming to the place of his first incarnation.

Although the chronology and setting are Christian, and the sense of millenial ending typical of the fin de siecle, and the condemnation of moderrnity also shared with many of the poets of the period:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. ...

and the notion of anarchy having replaced Christianity as the centre of the world are shared by poets from Matthem Arnold (caught between two worlds, one dying and one unable to be born) and T. S. Eliot.


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