The Second Coming Questions and Answers
by William Butler Yeats

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Summary of the second coming.

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This is one of the most profound poems imaginable.  It takes a great deal of patience and deliberation to explicate.  However, upon doing so, I guarantee that it will be a poem whose words and thoughts will remain in the mind's eye.  Context is needed in order to fully grasp it. Yeats is writing in the aftermath of World War I, where he had seen so many fine youth of a nation go out in the belief of nation, government, and spiritual identity and fight in a war where there were really no winners.  No European nation could claim victory with the large amount of death and destruction.  They say that the orphans from World War I amassed more than anyone could imagine. It is in this setting where Yeats composes his poem.  The opening lines of the poem set this mood of complete loss and disenchantment with what is.  The "widening gyre" helps to bring to light that some uncontrollable vortex is encompassing all consciousness.  In this black hole, inversion reigns supreme.  There is the idea that what was intended is not meant to be.  The "falcon cannot hear the falconer" and "things fall apart" while "the center cannot hold."  These images help to bring to light a world where there is no central or guiding force or authority, and a sense of looseness in identity and focus has emerged.  What was once believed no longer applies.  This is especially poignant when considering the millions of soldiers who fought in believing in nationalism, militarism, spiritualism, paternalism, and any other "-ism" one can find.  (Alongside of this poem, might I suggest reading Pirandello's short story, "War.")   This condition continues until the first stanza's closing couplet , revealing a world where terror is...

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