“The only living manwhose work has more than a most temporary interest” Ezra PoundWilliamButler Yeats (1865-1939), probably the greatest English poet of the twentiethcentury whose unusual creative potential was readily apparent as a young man,especially to his Irish contemporaries.His poetry is characterized by its intense lyricism, its use of symbolism, itssensuous beauty, precision and realism.”TheSecond Coming” was written in 1919 in the aftermath of the First World War(1914-1918) and was first published in the American magazine The Dial in November 1920. Later on itwas included in the volume entitled MichaelRobartes and the Dancer in the year 1921. It was written at a time whenYeats was puzzled by violence displayed by events like the Easter Rebellion of1916, the Irish Civil War that followed it and the European great World War of1914 to 1918.
And in terms, of his philosophy of history a new age in theworld’s history was going to begin. “The Second Coming” written with the Irishtroubles, the Great War and other troubles in mind and displaying hisphilosophy of A Vision which he wasto formulate and organize in 1925. This visionary poem enhanced his reputationas a leading cultural figure of his time.Thepoem is a dramatized presentation of Yeats’s cyclical theory of the historicalprocess, according to which human civilization moves forward in antithetical ordialectial epochs, each of approximately two thousand years’ duration. TheChristian civilization marked the termination of the ‘Babylonian mathematicalstarlight’ which began around 2000B.
C. In a 1936 letter to a friend, Yeats saidthat the poem was ‘written some 16 or 17 years ago and foretold what ishappening’, that is, Yeats poetically predicted the rise of a rough beast or anew messiah that manifested as chaos and upheaval in the form of Nazism andFascism, bringing Europe to its knees. This sphinx- like creature typified thecharacteristics of the future civilization.Thegloomy prognostication of the future was provoked by the political anarchy inIreland, the unsettled state of Europe generally and especially the Bolshevikrevolution in Russia. ‘Manuscripts in Mrs. Yeats’s possession show how large apart the world situation of 1918-1919 played in its conception andgrowth'(Stallworthy, p.
17). The theory of history or each cycle of history isimagined by the poet as a circular or spiral turn or ‘gyre’. At the end of eachage, the base of the cone widens.