How do the poems "Adam's Curse" and "No Second Troy" by William Butler Yeats explore the themes of time, tradition, and art?
The title of "Adam's Curse" refers to the biblical account of Adam and Eve's expulsion from Eden, which resulted in all of their human descendents being forced to do hard labor throughout their lives. The speaker of the poem argues that artistic endeavors, particularly poetry, are just as difficult and arduous as physical labor; however, a skillful poem appears effortless. The poem also describes the passage of time, including the dying embers of the day and the worn appearance of the moon, which the speaker relates to the human curse of aging and mortality and the waning beauty of the woman he once loved.
"No Second Troy" is a meditation on a woman whose volatile nature put her at odds with the time and place in which she lives. Yeats compares her to Helen of Troy, whose beauty led to rivalry and war between Troy and Greece. In the early 20th century, however, the larger than life characters of mythology have fallen out of the favor.
Both poems allude to Yeats' tumultuous relationship with Maud Gonne, who was source of inspiration for his poetry but also a source of bitterness and frustration.