W.B. Yeats Poetry Which Is Influenced by Yeats’ Personal Context and Life Experiences Reflects the Transcendent Themes of the Cyclical Nature of Time and the Human Condition, Enabling Contemporary Audiences to Resonate with His Poetry Today. Essay
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W.B. Yeats poetry which is influenced by Yeats’ personal context and life experiences reflects the transcendent themes of the cyclical nature of time and the human condition, enabling contemporary audiences to resonate with his poetry today. The poems ‘The Second Coming’ (1919) and ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’ (1918) specifically reflect the effect of the cyclical nature of time on civilisation and history and humanity’s fragility and mortality. This understanding constructively shapes one’s judgement of Yeats’ his poetry as a whole.
‘The Second Coming’ (1919), written in the wake of World War One, the Irish uprising, and the Russian Bolshevik revolution prophesises the close of the Christian era and the violent birth of a new age highlighting the theme of the cyclical nature of time and civilisation. Yeats believed history was reaching the end of an ‘outer gyre’ and shifting cycles of civilisation, resulting in an impending apocalyptic revelation. He parallels this nightmarish apocalypse with the biblical allusion of the title ‘The Second Coming’, suggesting the Christian second coming of Christ, but in fact presenting the coming of an Antichrist, a symbol of violence and the chaos that exists in the world. The use of a rhetorical question in the last two lines reinforces the ambiguous nature of this ‘second coming’. The reference to Bethlehem in this rhetorical question juxtaposes the symbolism of Christ’s birthplace, representative of gentleness, innocence and love, to the devastation that is to come, emphasising the horror of the ‘rough beast’. Yeats uses the metaphor ‘The falcon cannot hear the falconer’ to symbolise the impending chaos and destruction of balance within civilisation. The repetition of ‘loosed’ encapsulates the insecurity caused by slackening of gyre circles and the freeing of corrupt forces. S.C. Sen (1968) supports this perspective,
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