Yeats’ poem “Second Coming” is a truly interesting poem to read, with its dramatic analogies and historical relevance. Despite his atheist beliefs, Yeats chooses to include many religious allusions within this piece. I find this literary technique particularly powerful in conveying complex anxiety to the reader.
The phrase “second coming” itself can easily evoke fear and chaos– two emotions that the author reveals well through his biblical allusions to themes and motifs from the biblical Book of Revelations. Yeats even pulls a subtle pun to these allusions: “Surely some revelation is at hand; surely the Second Coming is at hand.” He not only mentions the second coming, but he also explicitly cites the source of this allusion as “revelation.”
Even more so, the poem’s ending– in which it brings a threat to the town of Bethlehem– provides fear in reversing the biblical narrative of Jesus’ birth. Yeats brilliantly utilizes biblical allusions as a jumping point to create his own narratives and relate them to his historical context. Because so many readers are familiar with biblical stories and phrases, Yeats’ renovation of these religious allusions only further the poem’s tone of anxiety and instability.
The author’s usage of biblical stories and phrases is subtle yet powerful in conveying fear and anxiety upon reading his pieces. One must also wonder if this emotional impact served as Yeats’ main interest in religious allusions for literature. On the contrast, perhaps his own atheist beliefs could provide sufficient reasoning for rewriting the biblical narratives with his own lens and perspective.