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Akhmad Kusuma Wardhana


Analysis of Yeats’ Poet, “The Second Coming”

I) Introduction

The second coming is the poet of 20 th century period when the industrialization reached its peak and many modern countries started the war for the freedom or for the settlement of other country. In this era British played the most significant part as the country which declared war against other country and joined its force with some of other European country known as west block. As a transcendentalist and the pillar of establishment between Irish and British through literary works, William Butler Yeats wrote the poem the second coming as his expression of his hatred in social condition that always suffered because of war. He thought that war always needs the sacrifice from innocence people; even they didn’t know anything about. This poem is written in satire form with some of the mythical element inside it because Yeats had long life interest in occult, mystic, spiritualism, and astrology in his early life as a young man. According to the background of life of Yeats, he was proposed a marriage to a woman named Maud Gonne I 1899, 1900, & 1901. But three times she rejected him. But Yeats didn’t give up easily. He then continued his pursue to her and it was started when he visited her to congratulate her as her 1 st son birth, Sean Mac Bride. But later she and her husband got divorced and this is the chance for Yeats to marry her (Hone, 1943). As some literary analyst show this poem as his illustration of his long awaited pursuit for his beloved.

II) Focus of Problem Discussion

There are 2 focus in problem discussion in this poem, one is about the worse condition of society caused by World War I in Irish, especially caused by the invading of British in Irish, another is about the mysticism element that related with book of revelation and the 2 nd coming of Jesus Christ in the earth after his 1 st coming in Bethlehem long time ago.

III) Analysis


There is a falcon that flies around to hunt its prey ordered by its master. But later that falcon flies too far away that even its master cannot see his falcon. The falcon can see there is blood spread everywhere; people do no longer understand the differences between good and evil.

Suddenly the narrator speaks about the Spiritus mundi, world of eternal symbol and the relation with mythical element in the world such as sphinx in the Egypt that has lion body and human head, the condition on the earth where darkness veils because of human passion, and about the second coming of Jesus Christ to drop the curtain of Satan and bring the peace and light on the earth [Online 4].


Theme is about the war always causes misery because of human greediness for seeking Gold, gospel, & glory.

General Meaning

The second coming is the poem that tells about the situation of Irish after World War I and Yeats as the author want to emphasize his feeling to the reader that it was the time for Irish people to be freed from the settlement of Britain and Irish people have power to do. Yeats also shows his interest in occult through this poem in stanza 2 that is dense with nuance of mythical beast and something that related with book of revelation as if there will be second coming of Jesus on the earth because of the greediness of human caused by the influence of Satan empire [Online 1].

Detailed Meaning First I want to analyze both stanzas if there is a difference or not. There are 2 differences of stanza 1 and stanza 2 based on the point of view of the Yeats itself. The point of view of stanza 1 is the images of WW I when many blood spilled; many innocence people participated for the fake ceremony by the government. Anarchy was become priority of the action rather than human rights and society norm. This situation was normal in WW I for the government perspective because passion drove their way of thinking.

But in stanza 2 it tells about the images of bad society in 20 th century but contain much of mysticism and religion that cannot be found in stanza 1. There are second revelation as the symbol from new testament of bible means that Jesus Christ will come down from heaven to the earth to fight Satan empire that will spread his region to the whole world with engulf of darkness and cause misery to human in the judgment day or near end of the world. But in the real world when William Butler Yeats lived can be interpreted by the desire of Yeats to force Irish people to sound the revolution against the domination of British as the second peace of Irish nation (Brown, 2001). Then he said he was lost his sight in the desert (line 13) means the desert is so wide that people can be lost easily. It can also be inferred as the world after post WW I as the desert where there is no government that can be trust. Then he tells something with lion body and head of man means sphinx as sacred beast (line 14). Rough beast also said again as mythical element of symbol in line 21 means government that were just sent their young man to the battlefield as beast that didn’t have inner heart. Last line tells again about the coming of Christ in Bethlehem as the second born or coming from the heaven that can be means the time for second peace of Irish or the world after World War I by government that prior justice than glory will make their country come to peace without misery left by War. It seems that both stanzas have symbol and meaning to the real world after WW I but in stanza II there are many symbol that related with mythical beast and divinity that cannot be found in stanza I (Anthony, 2003).

Another is the differences of illustration can also be read in this poem. Basically, every poem has one theme that supported preceding stanza. But in this poem, the stanza suddenly changed in stanza 2 even it is still explained about the same topic, situation after World War I. In stanza 1 he tells about the falcon as the symbol of people or soldiers that are controlled by the government to go to the battle field and dying. The word falcon can also be interpreted a symbol, of type of airplane that was used in World War I, that is Albatros D type I-IV that has similar type of flying with falcon as a real bird (Wyngarden, 2007). Other symbolization of falconer is the symbol of

nobility and high culture people because as we know that only rich people who hunt wild duck with falcon in the real world until now. That symbol is match with the situation imagined in stanza 1 line 2 “the falcon cannot hear the falconer” means that government cannot hear what the society want and act only based by greediness and desire of glory, not for society needs. But suddenly he tells about second coming, mythical beast, and pointing about symbol of divinity that is not exist in stanza 1, even it can means symbol of real world situation.

After analyze the differences, next is analyze the expressions that show historical events after WW I, especially in Irish where the author was born. There are symbol of falcon that related with the airplane that was used in WW I, albatross and the airplane that was used in WWII with the same name, Dassault Falcon 20. That WW II can also be interpreted as the meaning of the words the second coming in stanza II as second war that will occurred again to fight for justice, or in this case, fight communism and genocide by NAZI (Gates, 1978). It can also be interpreted as the Irish government and nation who didn’t have any force to voice their independence against Britain because UK parliament couldn’t approve Third Home Rule Act to establish the self- government for Ireland as the falcon cannot hear the falconer. Then the expression in stanza 1 in line 6, The ceremony of innocence was drowned images the condition of Ireland in 1911-1921 when the rebellion against British political government caused by partition of Ireland because Irish side didn’t agree with Irish Convention made by British. There are many rebels voice their aspiration against Britain and it is called as the event of political violence in Ireland. Then in line 5 the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere means the blood of the Irish people that was spilled in Irish War of Independent from 1919 to 1921.

At stanza 2 the expression that tells about historical background of Irish begins in line 18 until last line when darkness covers the earth and Satan with his regime surrounding the whole world, Jesus Christ will come down from to the heaven to beat the Satan as it told in Bible as Battle of Armageddon. That term also has relation with line 19 that twenty centuries of stony sleep means the ignorance of the UK parliament about Third Home Rule Act that later become suspended after WW I to establish the freedom of Irish in 20 th century. Then, the term of battle of Armageddon if I connected this with real world when Yeats wrote this poem can be interpreted as the war that ends all war in Irish called as War of Independence to establish the country of Ireland from 1919 to 1921 [Online 2].

Talking about analysis of this poem, there are some symbols that are really important for the interpretation of the meaning such as falcon, tide, and darkness. There are many interpretation of falcon. First is about Falconer means the symbol of nobility and high class people because in medieval time as well as in 21 st century only people with much money or rich has falcon to accompany them for hunting. Second interpretation of falcon is the title for the Irish Republican Army, the army of the newly-declared Irish republic [Online 2]. Then, another interpretation of falcon is the UK government as the falcon that cannot hear their inner heart or falconer to prior the justice of human rights for Irish independence.

Then about tide can be means by the wave of the battlefield occurred anywhere in Irish to struggle for their independence. Tide here can also means the alteration of the era and war always exist along the changing of the era [Online 1] as blood-dimmed tide or the changing of

the era cannot be separated with the existence of the war because as long as men are still exist on the earth, war always be triggered because men always solve the problem with their power first.

The images darkness in this poem also has some meanings. As I know William Butler Yeats was enthusiastic with occult and mystic, so that in this poem there is some mysticism that views darkness as the symbol of the rise of Lucifer, the name of Satan that will drove the earth to the darkness and evil. He will erase all of the religion on the earth and use Satanism as his propaganda. He will be collapsed by Jesus Christ near the end of the earth as it is told in Bible, New Testament, and book of revelation. Darkness if it linked to the reality in Irish in 20 th century can be means the bad situation of the government of Irish that couldn’t persuade UK parliament to approve Third Home Rule Act that later triggered The Cosncription Crisis of 1918 in Irish and caused War of independence started in 1919 (Croft, 1987). Darkness can also be means the irrational thinking of Britain that couldn’t fulfill the voice of Irish people.

Is there any part of the poem that contrast with the vision of Yeats as the author? If yes why he wrote this poem before and what is the purpose if something that he wrote against his vision? Yes it has and if we want to know what part, we must look about the historical background of Yeats itself. Back to his early life, young Yeats enthusiastic in something about occult & Irish legend, he was joined in paranormal research organization called as the ghost club in 1911. He also stated that mysticism played an important part as his career as writer and author [Online 4]. He didn’t like how society think about the materialism as the landscape of their life, forgotten what their nation was experienced in the past and of course the 1ts stanza is the sign of his expression about the irony of the Christian people who were driven by the materialism rather than what Jesus Christ inherited to his people (Brown, 2001). This is the ironic reality of the Christian people and of course it proves they didn’t believe in such occult and mysticism that Yeats was believed. European society was only believed in what made them glorious and rich, especially the power holders. This was against the vision of Yeats that spiritualism was more important than materialism as he emphasizes it in stanza 2. He was just wrote the vision that against his vision in stanza 1 to show how much blood must be spilled and misery must be suffered caused by war that is driven by the materialism vision, not by spiritualism and justice as Jesus Christ said in his bible.

Conclusion There is war and there is a darkness and blood spilled. Those things cannot be separated because all are linked and act as cause effect. If there is no darkness in the human heart, war will not occurred, misery will not be caused. Everyone must control their behavior first before control other people as falconer control his/her falcon. Yeats shares his mind to show us that conflict is always useless in every era and place. The second coming or judgment day as a jargon to bring the peace for a nation cannot be exist if we are not begins and aware to stop war and conflict by ourselves as soon as possible without waiting for the help of others.


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