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A Comparisan Of Yeats' The Second Coming And Leda And The Swan

2602 words - 11 pages

The Second Coming is a free-verse poem of 23 lines. It is a description of the world as Yeats sees it at that moment in time (1919). The poem is about the world being brought to its knees by anarchy and how the second coming is at hand. It symbolizes the beginning of an era and the ending of another. The poem is wrought with Biblical references. This comes as a surprise as Yeats found it hard to believe in Christianity, and like his father, believed in the religion of art. He searched for meaning in mysticism, folklore (being Irish) and theology amongst others. It is surprising then that this poem - taking its name and content from a biblical perspective - has so many religious references. ...view middle of the document...

God is the centre of the world (line 3) and humans have lost sight of this - anarchy ensues. 'Mere anarchy' in line 4 shows how simple it is. This might reflect Yeats' personal views of struggling to find meaning and resolution in Christianity and its beliefs. The poem could possibly be a reflection of the poet's inner turmoil and a metaphor for grappling to find meaning in life. There is a clear element of Christianity in his poems. Adam's Curse, A Prayer for my Daughter, Crazy Jane talks with the Bishop and Long Legged Fly all have religious elements to some extent or another. Yeats seems to have had a clear knowledge of the scriptures as shall be seen from the analysis of The Second Coming.The 'blood dimmed tide' drowning the 'ceremony of innocence' conjures up images of the Great Flood of Noah's time, drowning the sins of the world. The blood in the water is the purging and the death of all the sinners in the world. Before Jesus died on the cross, becoming the ultimate sacrifice for humankind, to be cleansed of their sins, people had to slaughter a pure, undefiled animal (usually a lamb) to atone. "It is the blood that makes atonement for the soul" (Leviticus 17:11). Baptism is the act of identifying with the birth, death and resurrection of Christ as the saviour for mankind's sins. This 'ceremony of innocence' is a reference to the act of being baptised, a theme that arises three times in the poem. Christian baptism is a recognition of being accepted into Christ's community, of repentance of sin, and through Jesus' blood, atonement. The next two lines of the poem use loose terms of description, 'best' and 'worst'. The poet does not give us concrete information as to what the people are best or worst at. This is a sign that Yeats is not sure what is going on - it reiterates the confusion that he is describing. In exasperation he cries: 'Surely some revelation is at hand' (line 10). Things have 'fallen apart' so much that there is no more deterioration that can take place. Yeats sees that this must be almost the end, and the world cannot continue like this for much longer, it has reached the end of the downward spiral and something has to now happen. He sees this as the sign for the second coming of Christ. However before this can happen, the beast (Satan) must come to earth. In the scriptures of the New Testament, the signs of the second coming of Christ are listed: wars and rumours of wars, revolutions, widespread famine, disease and earthquakes, anarchy and finally an appearance of the antichrist (Matthew 24:6, Luke 21:10,11 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4)From line eleven onwards the poem deviates from an active description of the world in which the poet finds himself, to a depiction of something the poet conjures up in his mind. It is important to remember this, as the poem is not about the second coming, but rather a commentary on society and a warning as to what could happen if things don't stop falling apart. Lines eleven through seventeen...

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