My analysis of W. B. Yeats – ‘The Second Coming’

Love this!:)

Laura Turley

This poem was composed by Yeats in 1919, just at the end of the First World War (the ‘recovery’ period, if you like), and it was originally named ‘The Second Birth’. The poem is considered a major work of Modernist poetry and has been reprinted in several collections, including ‘The Norton Anthology of Modernist Poetry’.

The first stanza of the poem begins by describing the conditions present in the world, “Things fall apart”, “Mere anarchy”, and the second surmises from those conditions that a monstrous Second Coming is about to take place, not of the Jesus we first knew, but of a new messiah, a “rough beast,” the slouching sphinx rousing itself in the desert and lumbering toward Bethlehem. This brief exposition, though intriguingly blasphemous, is not terribly complicated; but the question of what it should signify to a reader is another story entirely.

As it was written post WW1, you would think…

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Songs to conjure images.

I personally love to listen to specific pieces of music to relate to ideas in poems. I thought that I would share some pieces of music that have helped me get into the mindset of Yeats and Atwood.


Any songs from the battles in Les Misérables helps me envision the revolutionaries in Ireland, but some songs stick out particularly:

Red and Black/Do You Hear the People Sing

These are two songs (one after the other) in which the revolutionaries stir up hope and realise that they can stand up to the French government. ‘Do You Hear the People Sing’ (sometimes referred to as ‘The People’s Song’) is a classic tune which embodies the spirit of revolutionaries and has been used in many protests and strikes. It illustrates the point that people will not stand by and let bad things happen any more, which helps associate it in my head with the Irish Revolution in some of Yeats’ poetry.


Do You Hear the People Sing (Reprise)

This song is sung at the end of Les Mis – taking place in heaven, with all the dead revolutionaries singing about heaven and the afterlife, which conveys messages in ‘The Cold Heaven’ and the idea of wasted lives in ‘Easter 1916’. When I hear it I can imagine Wolfe, Emmet, Tone, Markiewicz, Pearse etc singing among them.


This song is specific to ‘Half Hanged Mary’ and is from the musical Wicked. I feel that the persecution of Webster in the poem is parallel to the persecution of Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) in Wicked. This song is called ‘March of the Witch Hunters’ and is the Witch hunters (lead by Boq/the Tin Man) singing about their hunt. I feel it personifies the ‘show of hate’ against Webster.


If you want to listen to more music of the same type, Les Mis, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera & The Lion King are my personal favourites!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this music! 


Yeats in 2012/2013

This blog is such a good resource for AS Literature for WB Yeats! Check it out!


A new academic year will see many new (and some old!) students sitting the OCR AS English exam on W.B Yeats. We are here to help your study and we always appreciate your comments on our revision notes. If you have great ideas (or want to challenge some of our ideas!) please leave comments on our pages; your comments will only add to the quality of this resource. All comments are subject to moderation.



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Poet Vs Poet…

Actually love this interpretation of the task
By the way – title similarities were apparently completely coincidental!

The Room of Requirement.

Writing styles of different poets differentiate which is also the case for both Margaret Atwood and Carol Ann Duffy. They are both different, but very easy to recognise once you understand some of their techniques.

Margaret Atwood.

One of Atwood’s strongest techniques is the way in which she uses her grotesque verbs and nouns for example: ‘jammed’; ‘broken’; ‘ripped sack’ and ‘scraped the flesh’.

Along with her use of grotesque verbs and nouns she also uses ampersand to highlight how close the words are with their meaning ‘perfect & intact’ and also ‘raped & pregnant’, this portrays the maturity of her writing and also perceives the close relationship between the two words either side of the ampersand.

Another technique Atwood uses is that of her enjambment she uses this in a way which allows her lines to flow into one another, but keeps her versus separate. This then highlights that…

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A Woman’s Issue

‘A Woman’s Issue’ is a poem by Margaret Atwood which focuses on Atwood’s negative opinion of rape and abuse in war. The poem is split into 6 stanzas, giving four different gruesome images and then ending on a reflection. The poem is spoken as if someone is describing objects in a museum, “Exhibit A”. This conveys the fact that in some cultures women are objectified by men. The language is very simple and blunt, almost emotionless, so that anyone can read it and understand Atwood’s message. The blunt language could almost be seen as scientific and emotionless to show that men do not have sympathy for the women they rape, “The ones that die are carefully buried.” . Through this poem Atwood questions whether wars are fought for sex, “Is this why wars are fought?”.

The title immediately makes the reader think. The use of the word “Issue” in the title ‘A Woman’s Issue’ is a homonym, the phrase ‘a woman’s issue’ in medieval times was used to mean a woman’s time of the month, but the word ‘issue’ means a problem. This automatically makes the reader assume that the fact that women get pregnant is a problem.

Atwood uses grotesque descriptions to describe the abuse the girls received, “the spiked device”. The main device that makes these descriptions so graphic are the verbs; “jammed”, “scrape”, these show the pain that the women went through. As well as this the women are de-humanised, referred to as ‘exhibits’, they are objects there for man’s pleasing, “Men like tight women.”

Another device that Atwood uses is the use of ambiguous language. Atwood refers to a woman with “a net window”, probably referring to a veil, yet also conjures up images of being trapped in a net, a metaphor for women being trapped in their gender, not able to reach their full potential. The fifth stanza has lots of ambiguous language in it, comparing war to rape, and birth to death, “no man’s land to be entered furtively”, “doctor’s rubber gloves greasy with blood, flesh made inert”. The whole of the fifth stanza is a reflection on the fact that all these things are due to what is “between the legs”, and Atwood questions whether sex is “why wars are fought”.

The last stanza reveals that “This is no museum,”. Until now we assume that these horrific acts are tales of history, and yet Atwood now reminds us that these things still happen today. This is one of the main messages of the poem, that rape and abuse in war still occurs today, and that “love” is not part of it.

Thanks for reading,