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Poetic Foundations of William Butler Yeats

            William Butler Yeats was a master of the poetic form, using it to convey his internal and outward struggles effectively. Yeats was not of Protestant faith but rather, a man who pursued occult belief systems and hence believed in predestined fate. This ideology narrowed his perspective on different ways of perceiving the world as he knew that there was no free will that did not lead to death. Yeats often wrote about violence and its disorderly nature was the fulfillment of a template. He expresses these ideas in 'The Second Coming' (1919) and 'Leda and the Swan' (1923), both political poems, exemplifying his perception of the world, relative to time and outcome.
             Following the Great War in the early 20th century, Yeats' modernist ideas filtered through traditional stories and form to shine a light on his perception of violence. In 'The Second Coming', Yeats alludes to the Christian prophesy of Jesus' return to Earth to judge every living person and to ultimately end the physical world, hence being the conclusion of history. However, Yeats distorts this idea of a messianic return by envisaging a destructive 'beast' fulfilling Revelation's prophecy in place of Christ. The poem uses simple, objective syntax and an omniscient tone to capture the rigidity of the disharmonious vision. The second stanza of the poem reveals the coming of a destructive beast. The beast's heraldic nature is reinforced through the imagery of Jesus' divine conception and birth in the manger, paralleling the beast's awakening after 'twenty centuries of stony sleep' in its 'rocking cradle'. In the last line, the 'rough beast slouches towards Bethlehem to be born', adds to the sinister aura of the poem through the casual diction of the word 'slouches,' as it exemplifies the beast's sole nature to wreak havoc on earth. The Second Coming is a parody on the biblical tale of Christ's return, to emphasize his grand view on the nature of modernism's diminishing social order.

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