“The muse is mute when public men applaud a modern throne.”
I am quite sure that you too just interpreted the above lines in the light of the disappointing events of today’s world. The lines are by the celebrated English-Irish poet William Butler Yeats.
He was a protestant and was a religious minority in Northern Ireland, which had a Roman Catholic majority. This led to him feeling dissociated from both the communities. Yet again, his paternal and maternal traditions were completely opposite. Whereas his mother’s side believed in Irish fairy myths, his father was a proponent of facts and science.
Yeats grew up in a conflicting environment, which fuelled his alienation with his world and its governing systems. He had a troubled love affair with a woman, which left his views on love torn for the rest of his life. Also, while he was growing up, Ireland was engulfed in the civil war.
Yeats was a person who could not fully believe in anything or anyone. He had his own apprehensions and doubts about life.
This, he called his “antinomial vision”.
Yeats’ Theory Of Apocalypse:
The Bible talks in detail about the end of mankind and the world or the “Apocalypse”. This apocalyptic vision of the world was envisioned within Yeats’ poetry and philosophical viewpoint.
His apocalyptic vision of the world is also shaped by the horrors of World War 1. In his poem ‘The Second Coming’, written in 1919, just after the War, one can catch a glimpse of his idea of the world moving towards its end:
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
Deeply haunted by the horrors of the World War, he envisioned the world coming to an end. People continually became more and more intolerant of each other and resorted to violent means and destruction to win over the other.
Are We Moving Towards The End That He Predicted?
He propounds something called the “gyre theory”, which is represented by two cone-shaped spirals that intersect, such that the end of one is the beginning point of the other.
He uses this to symbolise the motion of time and the fact that history repeats itself. He also puts forth the idea that the world is a 2000-year cycle which will soon end and a new era would begin.
Today’s perilous times, with the violence and bloodshed, rampant destruction of nature and subsequent climate change, anarchy and inability to make sense and the oppression of people by a few in power- is all that was already predicted by Yeats about a 100 years ago. He saw mankind moving towards its own destruction.
The poem ‘The Second Coming’ seems to relay a brief moment of hope, “Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand.” But, don’t mistake it for the glorious Second Coming of the Saviour as in the Bible.
The catastrophe we have unleashed on our own selves does not warrant for a saviour to rescue us. Yeats writes “Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
So, are we too being approached by the same apocalypse that Yeats talked about?
Let us know your views below in the comments section.
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