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Concept of History and Civilization


In many of his poems W.B.Yeats refers to the rise and fall of civilizations.  According to him the nature of civilization changes after almost every two thousand years.His view of history or the rise and fall of civilizations as a cyclic process involves the symbols of wheel and gyre. A gyre spins quickly round a fixed centre. Initially a civilization is intense and narrow and as it progresses , it broadens and slowly loses its intensity and finally disintegrates.Thus when one civilization advances towards disintegration. its "antithetic " one emerges with a slow pace. This idea has been aptly illustrated through 'The Second Coming ',a remarkable poem of W.B.  Yeats.
Yeats's concept of history and civilization

The poem starts most effectively with the picture of the world after the First World War as it is seen by Yeats .The falconer has lost its control over the falcon which does not hear the falconer's call .In other words,the people of the modern world have gone astray and Christianity as symbolised by "Falcon ,cannot control the world .Man has gone astray and does not heed the words of God.The centre cannot hold and absolute anarchy has been loosed upon the world.Traditional and aristocratic values of life have been damaged beyond repair. The best people do not know what is good for them;the worst people are full of passion and intensity. In other words , an atmosphere of fanaticism and violence has overtaken everything. All these signs,according to Yeats,are the indication that a Second Coming is about to occur.Ina vision the poet sees a vast shape,with the head of a man and the body of a lion ,energing out of "Spiritus Mundi". It is a collection of images which recur endlessly in myths and effect is terrifying.

This terrifying figure resembles the Egyptian Sphinx and the poet's eyes are troubled by this image .This beast frightens the desert birds and beasts, as it slow thighs move onward .During the twenty centuries of  the Christian civilization ,this beast has been sleeping, but now it is about to make its appearance in the world. This will be the "second coming".It will supersede Christ who was born two thousand years ago at Bethlehem. This new period in human history will be one of monstrous animal power.This "rough beast. "the violent and terrifying beast will in due course dominate the corrupt world,spreading violence and evil.

To sum up, The Second Coming illustrates beautifully the poet's prophetic vision.Christianity is been as falcon that has lost its touch with the falconer. He visualises the reversal of the world's gyre, and the birth of a new violent , bestial anti -civilization in the destruction of the two thousand years Christian cycle.

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