Yeats saw the end of the Romantic Era of Literature and the dawn of Modernism in his time of living. Different fields of art were also undergoing transformation due to the worldwide phenomena that included the two world wars. The romantic period saw a change in the thought process of that era. Yeats focused more on the individual than the society. It was a time when personal consciousness became the center of art and imagination became a large part of it. Since there was no room for new ideas in the neoclassical era and was limited, romanticism brought new and different elements, such as rustic motives, mythologies and lush landscapes. It also defied order, harmony and ideals in the 18th century, which shaped the neoclassical era. In the pursuit of the individualist view, this period dominated the ideas of appreciating the beauty of nature and the sense of reasoning or the feelings about intelligence. This was accompanied by an examination of human nature that inspired the creation of extraordinary heroic images or the recreation of epic images in some other way. Modernism began after the beginning of the twentieth century and continued until 1965. The twentieth century saw two world wars and created world unrest. Therefore, modernity focuses on decay and human isolation due to war.
Yeats poetry is neither modernist nor romantic, but both. He writes about the peace of the country which takes him away from the mechanical ethics of the modern era. His poems see him retreating from nature to escape the changing world. However, at the same time he uses the paintings and elements that make his work modernist. He uses symbolism, rhetoric, embellishments and myths to create modernist influences in his poetry. It uses mythological images that represent the decaying society and moral values that became prevalent after the wars. His poems No Second Troy, The Second Coming and Leda and Swan represent well their use of myths to emphasize the combined influence of modernity and imagination.
It is also important to understand why Yeats used so many myths in his works. While I was writing, British control over the educational system and church doctrines did not give Irish folklore a place in the curriculum. Therefore, the Irish public could not be educated about its culture. Yeats used his poetry as a tool to help his countrymen rediscover the legacy hidden in their folk tales. I wanted to recreate an Irish heritage. With the help of Lady Gregory, he founded the Irish Literary Theatre and the Abbey Theatre. He retold stories and epics and used fragments in his stories. The second way was that he included images and themes from epic tales. He also commented that the story was cyclical in nature and in a world that was quickly becoming chaotic, he described how the story was like a mirror when using powerful images and symbols.
His poem No Second Troy is about Irish activist Maud Gonne, who rejected Yeats' marriage proposals. Despite the rejection, he announced that he was deeply influenced by her powerful personality. He then compares Troy to Helena, who was the reason behind the Trojan War. Although he states that she is like Helen, she revolves around the meaning and significance of the myth associated with Helen. The daughter of Zeus, she was taken back to Troy after marrying in Paris and this caused a war between the Greeks and the Trojans. Yeats used the characterization of Helen's character to give Maud Gonne a heroine full of courage and enthusiasm. He says that Gonne was able to provoke revolution due to his public personality. He was as great as Helen, who helped both the Greeks and the Trojans, but when he let lose his 'beauty like a tightened bow', he could change the whole landscape. He also suggests that she was a great speaker who inspired and created chaos among the people. Comes and goes between frequent Greek legend and contemporary political upheaval.
Besides that, he also compares the Trojan War to the ongoing turmoil. While Helen became the cause of a war because of Paris' desire to obtain the most beautiful woman, Gonne could become the center of a revolution for her courage and 'nobleness made simple as a fire.' Yeats not only uses the Trojan myths, but equates Gonne's nobility with a fire that is simple but powerful to create a war. His frequent use of words like 'fire' and 'tightened bow' renders him as someone who is full of passion, tension and ability who, upon getting liberated, may give birth to a war. He remarks that her personality was so powerful that it would not be her fault if she gives rise to a war, just like it was not Helen’s fault that the Trojan War took place.
Furthermore, he suggested that it was in his nature to say the things that created chaos, but in uniformity he became a voice against the elite. He says that she is not related to her age because she has such rare characteristics that she becomes similar to Helen. Maud Gone was, according to him, a radical who emerged from traditional Irish society and was, therefore, a misfit. The poem presents traditional feminine beauty in a very different light where it is powerful and capable of manipulation, combining Yates's history and contemporary situations.
The Second Coming is also based on the original idea of mythology and its entanglement with reality. From the title itself, it is clear that Yates is talking about the second coming of Christ promised by St. John in the Bible. However, in addition to biblical elements, Yates also describes his views of history. He suggested that history went in cycles, and through this poem he erased his theory about mythology and history.
Yeats's belief about the nature of the story is very different from the traditional one. There is no place for apocalypse or rise in his philosophy. Twisters represent the rise and fall of civilizations and xplain the position of humanity at each point.
On top of that, he talks about how at any time, the balance of civilization is disturbed and then 'things fall apart', leading to a new phase. He wrote it after the end of World War I and suggested that “anarchy is loosed upon the world ', there would come a time when equilibrium would be restored. It also describes the loss of civilization that war brought with it and uses graphic images and words such as 'the faint tide of blood.' The first verse focuses on the loss of a civilization that turns to the center that has surrendered. But the second verse gives rise to humanity, the hope of the coming of another. Here is brought the Bible story of Christ and other epic paintings. He says that humanity is becoming pagan by Christianity. He writes in such a way that it is clear that he is not talking about the end of the world. It merely states that the world is entering a new phase, complemented by the use of the word 'second' in the title.
He uses mythology many times to substantiate his points. It refers to the Sphinx, a creature found in Greek mythology that has the legs of a lion, the wings of a large bird and the face of a woman. Here odd elements denoting death and life are used. 'Darkness' refers to an unknown mystery that can cause turmoil in the world and lead to another coming. The next line, 'blank and pitiless as the sun,' again suggests death, which he describes in the first verse as the reason for the second coming. In the final line, he confirmed his deliberate use of myths by mentioning Bethlehem, which was the birth of Jesus.
Citing the birthplace of Jesus, he confirmed his reasoning for the second coming. His poem is finished, but the world and the civilization he talks about is moving towards another phase, a new phase that will see creation again. When he wrote this poem, nearly two hundred years had passed since the birth of Jesus, which he also mentions in the twentieth-century stony dream. Yates' second arrival returns to look at myths and its calculated and well-crafted use of history to create the combined effects of death and birth, decay and regeneration.