"The Second Coming" by William Butler YeatsWhat did the author trying to tell us and/or what is the most interesting?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most interesting aspects of "The Second Coming" by W.B. Yeats is his use of dark imagery to convey the state of the world:  

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Yeats' poem "The Second Coming" reveals the poets' fear of chaos following the horrors of WWI. The natural order of control has crumbled; the narrator begins with a very traditional image of a falcon and falconer, a pastime once enjoyed by the aristocracy and upper class, but in the growing turmoil, the falcon fiies aimlessly.  His trainer has lost complete control.  Yeats builds on this image and metaphor throughout the poem as he introduces even darker imagery in the second stanza.   The poem shifts from the natural order, the falcon, to something completely unnatural, a creature with a "lion body and the head of a man."   "The Second Coming" represents Yeats' fears in the aftermath of The Great War that society and order may have been damaged irrevocably; as a result, mankind may be heading toward chaos and destruction.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Second Coming" is a warning. Yeats views Western civilization as having lost its way, hence "things fall apart." He paints this development in apocalyptic terms, ending the poem by evoking images of the Antichrist, a "rough beast" that is "slouching toward Jerusalem." But it seems clear that no Christ figure is coming to deliver mankind in the wake of these events. 

To understand what Yeats is trying to say, it is essential to consider the context of the poem. Yeats wrote "The Second Coming" in the aftermath of World War I, an astonishingly destructive conflict that left many in Europe questioning the narrative of progress that had existed for hundreds of years. Additionally, many people, in the wake of Darwin and other scientific discoveries, had begun to reject the relevance of Christianity in Western life. So virtually every aspect of the civilization Yeats knew was, in his view, under threat, and it was unclear what the consequences of this would be. Yeats did not hold out much hope that they would be good.