As you might have noticed, William Butler Yeats’s poem is not replete with positive imagery or allusions. In Yeats’s poem, it seems like things are falling apart. In fact, Yeats says that in the third line of the poem: “Things fall apart.” Perhaps that’s a good place to begin to try and understand Yeats’s claim about the Second Coming. It doesn’t appear to be a good omen. It’s not Jesus coming back to redeem certain people; it’s a world of continuous chaos and lethal division.
You could argue people don’t deserve to be saved in Yeats’s world. He says the “best” people “lack all conviction” and insists the “worst” people are “full of passionate intensity.” You could link the “passionate intensity” of the worst people to the intensity of the poem. The frenzied, threatening ambiance of the poem underscores the outsized influence of these bad human beings.
Yet I don’t think you should let the “best” people off the hook. If the best are good,...
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