Yeats loved Maude Gonne, and proposed to her on a number of occasions. But she always turned him down. Not long after she rejected another of his marriage proposals, Maude married John MacBride, who was later famously described by Yeats in “Easter, 1916” as “a drunken, vainglorious lout.”
In “No Second Troy,” Yeats draws disturbing parallels between Maude Gonne and Helen of Troy. It was the elopement of the beautiful Helen with Paris that precipitated the Trojan War, an epic conflict which, according to legend, lasted for ten years until the city of Troy was finally breached and burned to the ground by the Achaeans.
Yeats makes this rather unflattering comparison because he sees Maude, for all her remarkable beauty and intelligence, as having a dark, dangerous side to her. The object of Yeats's unrequited love was a passionate Irish nationalist and advocated violence as a means of bringing British colonial rule to an end. This is what Yeats is referring to when he claims that Maude had
[T]aught to ignorant men most violent ways.
Yeats is clearly uneasy with Maude's predilection for revolutionary violence. He sincerely hopes that she, and other nationalist firebrands, will not turn Ireland into a second Troy with all the bloodshed, chaos, and suffering that it would entail.