Do you think that Yeats's "The Second Coming" will remain popular throughout the twenty-first century, and does the poem offer special insight for today's readers?

"The Second Coming" was written after World War One, when war and devastation had ravaged the world and when demagogues were on the rise amidst rampant chaos. Given that context, it certainly seems to resemble the world we find ourselves in today. Only time will tell if it will remain popular. It can offer insight in that history tends to repeat itself. Hopefully, modern readers can learn from this and avoid the mistakes of the past.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Second Coming" was written in 1919 in the aftermath of World War One. In the first stanza, the speaker describes the condition of the world as anarchic, corrupt, immoral, and hopeless, and in the second stanza, the speaker surmises that from this world there will come a terrible, apocalyptic "Second Coming."

Approximately one century later, one might argue that the world is in a similar condition to that which the speaker describes in the first stanza of "The Second Coming." Significant parts of the world are still ravaged by war and conflict, and others are ravaged by famine and droughts. Demagogues are arguably on the rise once more, feeding old, destructive prejudices and fueling hatred and intolerance. And indeed, in the news at the moment, the coronavirus threatens to become a devastating global pandemic. We seem, in many respects, to still live in a world on which "anarchy is loosed" and in which "Things (are) fall(ing) apart." For these reasons, this poem still resonates today.

I think the poem might offer a modern reader insights inasmuch as it might make a modern reader think about the course of history. It is curious, and a little dispiriting, to think that history tends to progress in cycles. People don't want to believe that we make the same costly mistakes over and over again. However, we seem always to be at war, and to give mandates to demagogues who are "full of passionate intensity."

Hopefully, a modern reader who reads this poem might think about why history tends to repeat itself, and why we don't seem to learn the lessons of history.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team