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William Butler Yeats, a multitalented individual won the Nobel Prize in 1923. Born the son of a well known Irish painter and religious skeptic had many influences in his life. Eventually, he converted to Paganism from Christianity. He is till this day considered one of the greatest poets that ever lived.
To understand the meaning of William Butler Yeats poem “The Second Coming”, you must first understand the difference between Christianity and Paganism. Yeats was raised as a Christian and turned to pagan mysticism later in his life. Therefore, we can find the subject of this poem by tracing his flow of thought through Christianity up to the point when he diverged from it.
Christianity is based around the soul. The soul becomes healthy by
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He receives a vision from the spirit of man in the same way that one would supposedly receive a vision from the Holy Spirit and is converted. After his vision he uses the phrase “now I know,” which suggests knowledge from some higher power similar to divine wisdom. In this new light we can assume that Yeats was relaxed with the idea that since there is no good or evil in the world, only what is natural (Nature is like a cycle), there is no need to be worried by events such as those that are taking place. Furthermore, there then is no need to feel guilt for one’s actions.
After his vision Yeats is sure of two things: that history is repeating itself, even if the new era is an altered form of the old one, and that he is a member of the “new paganism”. This explains the awe that fills the poem in its closing. An illustration of a rebirth into Paganism will be filled more with fear and awe than love for this reason: Christianity worships God in his love as a being of supreme good, but pagans worship the spirit of the world as a being of supreme power. Furthermore, his cadence in the last phase of the poem implies that he is almost speaking with reverence to the spiritus mundi and a quite disdain for what he sees as a flaw in Christianity. This brings us to the final two lines in “The Second Coming”, “And what rough beast, its hour come ‘round at last/ slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” This first sums up the poems theme of a “Second Coming” of paganism as opposed
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