In his pre-apocalyptic poem "The Second Coming," William Butler Yeats focuses on the menacing chaos of the present, the looming horror of the future, and his personal view of the progress of history.
The first stanza evaluates the state of contemporary society. Writing just after the Great War, Yeats was appalled at the deterioration that had occurred. Because of the toll the war had taken and the new ways it found of maiming and killing, many people fell into despair when they contemplated what mankind had become. Yeats speaks of the loosening of traditions that previously held things together and the resulting "anarchy." The very character of humanity seems to have plunged to new depths where innocence is a thing of the past and good people can no longer be relied on to stand for their convictions when evil people seek to take control. The despair and alienation this stanza describes was mirrored by other writers and poets, including T.S. Eliot in The Waste Land.
In the second stanza,...
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