Symbol in the The Second Coming

Subject: Literature
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 2
Word count: 511
Topics: Poetry, Romanticism, Symbolism

One of the symbols applied in William Yeats’ “The Second Coming”, is the falcon. In the context of the poem, the falcon is representative of the old guard or the regime in power. In the poem the falcon is ‘Turning and turning in the widening gyre’ (1) until it ‘cannot hear the falconer’ (2).

The application of this symbolism is meant to indicate that the regime in power is so obsessed with sustaining its grip to the instruments of power, until it can no longer realize when the subjects are fed and a revolution is staged to topple the regime. In this respect, the regime keeps moving around in circles merely catering for its own welfare and interest, without being concerned about the welfare of the subjects. Due to the comfort, privileges and the benefits enjoyed from remaining in power, the regime simply keeps turning around seeking for strategies that will enable it continue its reign in power, without the realization that change is actually coming, which will dethrone it from power. However, before it knows, the subjects are already tired of being oppressed by the regime, and consequently, ‘Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world’ (4). This line is meant to indicate the indignation of the subjects who are oppressed by the regimes in power, until they cannot take it anymore, and thus opts to pour anarchy into the streets and resist the oppression through a revolution that eventually dethrones the regime in power. It is this state of powerlessness suffered by the toppled regime, which the poem interprets in the words ‘the centre cannot hold’ (3). Therefore, in the end, the toppled regime is removed from power by the power of the subjects, eventually losing all the privileges, the comfort and the benefits it used to enjoy while in power. It is this state of falling to disgrace of a regime that had remained in power through oppressing the people and benefitting at their expense, which the poem refers to as ‘Things fall apart’ (3).

The major theme of William Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming”, is war of revolution. Therefore, the symbol of falcon is related to the theme of the poem, because the symbol is applied to advance the theme of war of revolution by the oppressed masses, who in the poem, are represented by the ‘falconer’ against oppressive regimes, represented by the ‘falcon’. The poem advances the theme of revolution in the context of a regime that is not responsive to its subjects needs (Haughey, 161). Yeats was simply making a revelation of a vision that he had of the coming of a war of revolution that would topple the oppressive regimes, which he coined as ‘The Second Coming!’ (11).

In conclusion, the second coming simply refers to the reawakening of the people to take charge of their own destiny, through resisting and revolting oppressive regimes. Thus, after the people are fed up by the unresponsiveness of the regime to their needs, they wake up from ‘twenty centuries of stony sleep’ (18) and walks towards new freedom.

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  1. Haughey, Jim. The First World War in Irish Poetry. Bucknell University Press, 2002. Print.
  2. Yeats, William Butler. “The Second Coming”. Michael Robartes and the Dancer. Chruchtown, Dundrum, Ireland: The Chuala Press, 1920. Print.
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