Literary devices in "The Second Coming" include the following:
antithesis: Antithesis is when two contrasting ideas or images are put together. A central motif of this poem is that the second coming Yeats envisions contrasts sharply with the second coming promised in the Bible. This is not Jesus the savior returning to earth to establish the kingdom of God. It is the exact opposite, a second coming of a primal evil loosed upon the world. Imagining the pitiless beast coming to Bethlehem to be born is also antithetical to the idea of that location as the birthplace of Jesus, who is understood as the prince of mercy and peace.
aphorism: An aphorism is a short, pithy statement of universal truth. When Yeats writes
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
he is communicating a central truth about his time.
Yeats leans heavily into imagery in this poem, as most poets do. Images are words that convey what we can experience with the...
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