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The Second Coming

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William Butler Yeats wrote the poem "The Second Coming" as a response to the destruction of life in general following WWI. To fully understand the historical context of Yates' poem, "The Second Coming", one must first understand Yates' religious and political views. Yates was brought up Christian, but as he grew older he became more and more interested in pagan religions. Before writing this poem, Yeats published a book called A Vision. This book discussed the world revolving in gyres as spoken of in line 1. These gyres are what Yeats concludes to be the cyclical progressions of time. Yeats believed that time periods flowed in 2000 years cycles. At the time this poem was written it was the end of the Christian Era and the beginning of something else. Yeats discusses a second coming as a means for saying that Christ will be reborn in this era only to be challenged by a sort of Antichrist (the sphinx).

This poem was written following WWI. Yeats was anti democracy and believed in the reign of kings and queens in Europe and neighboring countries. "The Second Coming" was written as a response to the fall of several empires of rulers including those from Russia and Germany. Yeats believed that rulers during WWI were so caught up in Imperialism and expanding their circles of power that they did not see the destruction their hunger for power was causing. This idea can be seen when Yeats writes;

"Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity. " (4-8)

The advances in technology and the use of high powered weapons during WWI were two of the reasons why "anarchy" was spread through the world as Yeats believes. The "best" being the supposed rulers of the European countries lacked any form of conviction to do the right thing in times of war while the worst were those who had the power to stop the war but didn't. Many were filled with the



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