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William Butler Yeats is an Irish writer who has been considered to be among the finest poets who write in English. For a long time, he was devoted to the cause of Irish Nationalism as he played an important role in the Celtic Revival Movement. He promoted the literary heritage of Ireland by using material from Irish sagas in a number of his writings. As an example, he wrote the poem known as 'Easter 1916', which depicts the struggles and fate that a number of Irish revolutionaries went through during that period (1916), while fighting for their beloved country. He has also been using magic and occult in a number of his works as it is brought out in his poem known as ' The Second Coming'. This poem is viewed as a symbolic revelation of the eminent end of the Christian era. The third of his work, known as 'An Irish Airman Foresees His Death', is a poem that represents an airman who saw no meaning in life and decided to enter the world war so as to end his life. This essay takes a look at the view of war present in the three poems.
The poem 'Easter 1916' is a reminder of 1916 Proclamation of Independence, which serves as a victorious and straightforward affirmation of the day the Irish Free State was born (Cole 18). This Yeats' poem pays homage to the numerous rebels who took their time to plan and execute the Easter Uprising. Notably, the Easter Uprising took place in the year 1916 between the 24th of April and 30th of the same month. Several militant Irish Republicans took over a number of key locations in Dublin with the aim of gaining independence for their country from the British. However, the rebellion was quickly put down by British forces as fifteen of the uprising organizers were publicly executed. The poem gives an account of the rebels before and after the uprising.
In the whole of the poem, it is impressive to note that the leaders of the uprising are mourned most sadly, and their courage is celebrated most memorably. This is so when Yeats implies that, if all things are considered, they were probably wrong both politically and humanely (Foster 73). Though Yeats did not personally approve of violence as a means to securing Irish Independence, it is the execution of the revolutionary figures that came as a shocker to many including the poet himself. Towards the end of the poem, the narrator commemorates the names of the fallen heroes, Thomas MacDonagh, John MacBride, James Connolly and Patrick Pearse (Cole 56-8). They are portrayed as eternal heroes of the Irish Republican Movement, with the poet finally reflecting on the price they had to pay so as to change the course of Irish history.
He uses the green color to commemorate these revolutionaries. It is also very interesting to note that the date of the Easter Rising can be seen in the poem's structure. In the first and third stanza, there are sixteen lines (referring to 1916), there are also 24 lines in the second and fourth stanza (representing the day the Rising Began), and lastly the total four stanzas refer to April.
In the poem called 'The Second Coming', William Butler writes about the World War I, which came to be known as The Great War, due to the impact it had on the world. Notably, this was also not long before the Easter Uprising in Ireland and the Russian Revolution of 1917. With all these chaos, the poet uses words that convey his bitterness towards war and the idea that the world, as he knew, was coming to an end (Bloom 212). However, 'The Second Coming' to the prophecy to Christians that Jesus will come back in the end of times to reign over the world. The poet uses this to incorporate his own mystical view of the world coming to an end. This poem describes a kind of an apocalypse that is very different from the Christians'. His own view is carried in his image of the 'gyres.
In the first stanza of 'The Second Coming', the apocalypse is described very powerfully. The falcon is depicted as circling very high in ever-widening spirals. The circles made by the falcon in the air tend to describe the disintegration and chaos in the world or our societies. It also represents a number of things, war, doubt and misguided evil. In the poet's vision of the world, the gyres represent intersecting cones; while one focuses in to a single point, the other widens out.
The poem also offers a view of the new world, which takes the shape with a lion body and the head of a man (Bloom 318). The poem in total describes a mystery. It is a prophetic poem that gives us a preview of the close of the Christian epoch and the violent birth of a brand new age. The Second Coming of Christ is seen as an approaching dark force with a dangerous purpose; however, it is nothing close to what Christians believe. His description fits an occurrence that will be strange and unthinkable. If it is to be compared to Christianity, the image resembles the sinister motives on the Antichrist that would precede the Second Coming of Christ. His vision of a winged beast is an imagination that depicts wicked laughter and destruction or war. The use of the phrase 'stony sleep' is from the mythology of William Blake, where Urizen falls has been provoked after being unable to bear the battle in heaven.
'An Irish Airman Foresees His Death' is a deep poem with a number of possible meanings by Yeats. It is a reflection of an Irish pilot in the First World War (Haugheny 161). The speaker starts by describing that he knows he will die while fighting, although he takes no side of the war. The speaker goes on to say that he is only fighting due to his lack of feelings of self-worth and boredom in general. This is a poem that describes actions that took place during the time of war. It is intriguing to note that the speaker begins by condemning himself to death before he even goes to war (Albright 35-36). While most individual would be worried of their death, the speaker is quite at ease without any expression to show sadness, regret or excitement.
The poem gives the background of the speaker, from which we can deduce the fact that he has no stake in the war. The speaker was dissatisfied with his life, terming it as a waste of breath together with the future. This means that his motivation towards fighting in the war seems to be a lonely impulse of delight. He makes it clear that he is fighting for himself, without being forced to. There are infantry and tanks trickling across the ground with defined objectives, which represents the former experience of the speaker (Albright 37-40). The airman is at will to follow whatever he wanted, and that is why he chose to fight in the war without necessarily fighting for his country.
It is apparent that the Irish airman wanted to fight in the war because he made the choice of joining the army. He could have instead taken up flying as a hobby. It seems he sought competitive thrill to end his life. He determines his own success as he has the skill and will to fight. The poem appears to be a review of an airman's life that is about to end in the skies. In a summary, the aviator is convinced that the flight he is just about to take was going to be his last. He gives us his views of why he has chosen to fly. His reasons are not out of duty or patriotism but personal. He sees his life as having been wasted, and no one could convince him that it would be any better. That is why he chose to fly and enjoy the moment while awaiting his death comfortably.
In conclusion, William Butler Yeats has written numerous poems that touch on different topics that reflect the issue concerning his country and the world at large. He is considered to be among the finest poets who write in English. He has always been devoted to the cause of Irish Nationalism, for example he promoted the literary heritage of Ireland by using material from Irish sagas. Among his many poems, he wrote the poem known as Easter 1916, which depicts the struggles and fate that a number of Irish revolutionaries went through during that period while fighting for their beloved country. He has also been using magic and occult in his works as it is brought out in his poem known as ' The Second Coming'. This poem is viewed as a symbolic revelation of the eminent end of the Christian era. The third of his work known as 'An Irish Airman Foresees His Death' is a poem that represents an airman who saw no meaning in life and decided to enter the world war so as to end his life.