Discuss the use of allusion in William Butler Yeats's “The Second Coming.” How is it important to the development of the theme of the poem?

The use of allusion in William Butler Yeats's “The Second Coming” is very important to the development of the themes of the poem, as it gives them a cosmic perspective. In the poem, Yeats is warning of an imminent change as the historical epoch ushered in by the birth of Christ comes to an end. The use of allusion, such as the biblical allusion of the title, gives that change a universal significance.

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Yeats's “The Second Coming” concerns the potentially bloody and disruptive transition from one historical epoch to another. Yeats believes that the Christian era is coming to a close, to be replaced by an era altogether more violent and uncertain.

Doubtless aware that his most people will find his historical theories somewhat eccentric, to say the least, Yeats uses allusions as a way of giving his ideas some kind of cosmic significance to make them more respectable, if no less unpalatable.

The most obvious allusion comes in the poem's title: “The Second Coming.” This is an allusion, of course, to the second coming of Christ. However, the second coming that Yeats envisages will be of an altogether different kind from that hoped for by Christians.

Yeats wants us to at least consider the possibility that there may be a second coming that ends the Christian era rather than one that renews it. And the nature of this second coming can be seen in the allusion to some rough beast slouching...

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