What are the similarities and differences between William B Yeats' "The Second Coming" and Rudyard Kipling's "The Storm Cone"? 

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Second Coming," William Butler Yeats wants readers to understand the devastation of the first World War (WWI). He wants to shock readers into a realization that the aftermath of war is far-reaching and the "anarchy" which has been "loosed upon the world" has fostered a sense of doom where "the best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity." He suggests that this "Second Coming" is not a victorious return but a nightmare. Despair grips mankind and the romantic notion of Christ is replaced by a "rough beast." The "widening gyre" suggests moving from one era to the next and the reader feels this movement through the "turning and turning" motion, the "moving" and the reference to the "shadows" which "reel."  

In comparing this to Rudyard Kipling's "The Storm Cone," the similarities appear in that Kipling is foreshadowing the effects of the next war (WWII). Kipling suffered the loss of his son during WWI and this poem thus echoes Yeats' sentiments in that something far worse lies in the near future. Kiplings' title, "The Storm Cone," also alludes to the cyclic or circular motion of life but is more defined than Yeats's "gyre," and could be understood to be suggesting that, this time, people should be forewarned and more prepared. 

  1. Both foreshadow worse events to come that are triggered by futile war.
  2. There is an unrecognized force, something similar to a "beast" or a "tempest" but far worse and undefined. The beast and tempest are merely signs of what may follow. 
  3. Christ references are apparent in Yeats' title and the "star" in Kipling's work.
  4. "The tempest long foretold" from Kipling's poem can be understood to refer to the same event as Yeats's "Second Coming" and his suggestion that "Surely some revelation is at hand."
  5. Both use vast areas of relentless and unforgiving landscape, limitless in scope (the desert versus the ocean), where the beast compares to the tempest.

Therefore, in terms of differences:

  1. Yeats vast desert and "beast" analogy differs from Kipling's unforgiving sea and "tempest" in his ship analogy.
  2. There is more of a sense of hope in Kipling's poem than Yeats' because, although Kipling issues a warning that "till she [the ship[ fetches open sea, Let no man deem that he is free," there is at least a possibility of redemption. The beast in Yeats' poem is "slouching towards Bethlehem," threatening to end Christianity as we know it.