Patriotism – William Butler Yeats

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William Butler Yeats is considered of the most influential authors of the twentieth century. His poems are a reflection of his life, as they tell of the love and patriotism he felt for Ireland. Also, his poems describe the hope he had for his country during tough times and how the struggles he faced encouraged his role in politics. He used his literature to express his attitude toward Irish politics, as well as to educate his readers about his beliefs in myths and mythic creatures.
Yeats wrote “The Second Coming” in 1919, soon after World War 1 ended. The speaker is full of sorrow because of the chaos of world wide events that have left many people dead. Groups of ideologues have wreaked havoc and much blood shed has smeared the lives of innocent people, who wish to live quiet, calm, and productive lives. The speaker describes the seemingly out of control situation of society to a falconer losing control of the falcon as he attempts to take control of it. Everyday life has become extremely unbearable as corrupt governments have spurred revolutions. Lack of respect for leaders of the government has left Ireland filled with violence and force. Yeats wrote this poem to express some of his political ideas and how the government was chaotic after the war.
Throughout “The Second Coming”, Yeats was determined to use wild symbolism that largely centered around destruction and rebirth. He uses the symbol of a tide “blood-dimmed,” drowning in innocence, that destroys hope and from which all of humanity needs help. The tide is used to refer to the water rushing around him, such as the water that rushed around Noah in the Bible. He uses ordinary symbols to show that something new and different is about to occur in the world, but instead of earthy peace, it will bring terror. Yeats thought that the second coming would not be Christ returning, but an Egyptian-Sphinx-like character that would be more Anti-Christ. The Egyptian-Sphinx symbolized evil and the opposite of Christian virtue, telling people that something bad was about to occur.
William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming” is considered one of the most popular poems of the twentieth century. The mythical creatures and his absurd ideas were unbelievable, but his political views expressed in the poem influenced others to write about their ideas. He used his literature to state his opinion, while also, trying to encourage the government to improve after World War 1. Four years after “The Second Coming” was written, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his literature and his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation.
The “Easter, 1916” was another popular poem he wrote. It commemorated the Easter Rising in Dublin on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916. During the rebellion, there were leaders of a political party called the “Sinn Feiners”, who favored Irish Independence. After six days, the rebels surrendered to the British forces, and sixteen of the Sinn Feiners were violently executed. Yeats had known many of the rebellion’s leaders, and he used “Easter, 1916” to pay his respect to their sacrifice and to work through his reaction to the uprising.
Patriotism played a huge role in his poetry. He used his literary platform to show respect to people who had sacrificed their lives for their country. Also, he wanted to educate and inform people about Irish history and culture. The people of Ireland were so intrigued by his patriotism that they elected him as Senator for 6 years.
While he was Senate, he used his political platform to express his views on divorce. On June 25, 1925 he gave his most popular speech. He called the proposals to ban divorce “grossly oppressive” and eloquently argued against the political and more pitfalls of the church-led proposals. He claimed that by banning divorce, the young Republic would completely get rid of Irish Protestants from the state and “crystallize” the partition of Ireland. Yeats stated “This is a demand for happiness, which increases with education, and men and women who are held together against their will and reason soon cease to recognize any duty to one another.”
Over the course of his Senate term, Yeats’ influenced many other individuals to express their opinions on difficult topics. Not only did he speak on the issues, but he fought for what was right for the people of his country, such as the divorce ban.
Many of Yeats later poems were about his relationship with a women who did not truly love him. Maud Gonne was the love of Yeats life, but she did not love him back. They shared a passion for Irish nationalism, Celtic revivalism, and mysticism, but despite Yeats’s repeated proposals over the years, they would never become husband and wife. Gonne liked to call their relationship a “mystical marriage”. Gonne, who disliked physical love (it was justified only by the need to procreate, she believed), felt that renouncing the physical side would elevate their love to the highest spiritual realm. Yeats, however, would continue to propose marriage to her until he finally found someone else. He was extremely outraged when he found that Gonne had married someone three days after she had turned him away. The marriage only lasted two years and Yeats & Gonne continued to have a mystical marriage because she continued to turn down his proposals.
Yeats used the heartbreak he was facing to write “No Second Troy”. It was an emotional and intellectual description of the influences that shaped and divided Ireland in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but Yeats characterizes Gonne as an object of social and political unrest who taught “ignorant men most violent ways”. When reflecting on his own personal misery about the love, he draws similarities with the misery of Ireland. During that time Ireland was divided into the working class and upper class. He compared the divided country of Ireland to how divided his and Gonne’s love was. The first line of the poem states that “she filled my days with misery and she taught men the most violent ways”. The poem was considered one of the greatest of all time because it gives a description of how the ones you love the most can hurt you the most. Yeats never fully got over the love he had for Gonne, but learned to cope with the fact that she did not love him.

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