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The Second Coming & Leda And The Swan Essay

1126 words - 5 pages

2015 HSC Q: Yeats’s poetry has been described as ‘a provocative portrayal of uncertainty in
changing times’. To what extent does this perspective align with your understanding of
Yeats’s poetry? In your response, make detailed reference to at least TWO of the poems set
for study.

To a large extent, Yeats poetry is ‘a provocative portrayal of uncertainty in changing times’. This is
made evident in The Second Coming (TSC) (1919) and Leda and The Swan (LATS) (1928)
through Yeats philosophical theory that he described in his book ‘A Vision’, which influenced his
writing as he applies it in his attempt to understand the wider world. His theory is focused around
the idea of ‘gyres’ which create a cyclic motion. Yeats believed this defined the contrary motions
evident in the repeating processes throughout history, portraying the uncertainty of chaos as time
changes and how this chaos leads to a significant change of time which is uncertain of what it will

It is historically evident that every society is bound for chaos as time changes, thus, Yeats explores
how and why this occurs. By interpreting TSC from his philosophical theory lens, it reflects how the
contrary motions of society during this period caused great political and social chaos. This is
evident from the very beginning, opening with “Turning and turning in the widening gyre” as the use
of repetition and assonance suggest a chaotic society. These particular societies are defined
through the hyperbolic allusion of “everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned” to
encompass the uncertainty of global chaos he saw in 1919 - the aftermath of WW1, Russian
Revolution & Irish rebellion. Yeats was passionately interested in this, and yearned to understand
how order in a society can drastically change to chaos. He suggests that the chaos of these events
were caused by society around him slipping away from Christianity, demonstrated through the
symbol of order repetition in “The falcon cannot hear the falconer”. The falcon symbolises society,
and the falconer, Christ. As the gyres widen, society slips away from Christ and “cannot hear” his
ruling, causing a decline in Christianity which had prominence up until the 1800s. Yeats applies his
philosophical theory of gyres to suggest that it is through the absence of Christ that causes political
& social chaos on society throughout history. This suggests the uncertainty of what will become as
time changes; giving the poem textual integrity as he continues to relate to the social contexts of all
readers who inevitably suffer from the uncertainty of being a part of a chaotic society.

Chaos is also conveyed in LATS, as he expresses his uncertainty of society in changing times. His
uncertainty is increasing as his love for Maud weakens, Ireland became an independent land from
Britain and Europe is rebuilding from the detrimental effects of WWI. This sense of chaos is
portrayed from...

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