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Min 200 words

William Butler Yeats’s “The Second Coming” Poem

Instructions: Choose 1 (and only 1) set of lines provided below from W. B. Yeats’s “The Second Coming” to answer the 5 questions below in paragraph form.

Metaphor, Simile, Setting, Atmosphere, and Mood

Choose 1 set of lines from these 3 choices:

Set 1:

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;” (Yeats 1-2)


Set 2:

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity” (Yeats 7-8)


Set 3:

“A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds” (Yeats 13-17)

Now, answer the following 5 questions in paragraph form:

  1. How does Yeats use imagery in the lines? Which of the 5 senses do these lines appeal to in the reader?
  2. Discuss Yeats’s use of metaphor in the lines. What are the words literally used in the metaphor, and what might the metaphor figuratively refer to–beyond the poem, so to speak?
  3. Can you locate any similes? What images do these similes inspire? If you can’t locate simile specifically, what other comparisons does Yeats make in the lines, and are the comparisons successful?
  4. What is the setting of the lines? How do you know?
  5. How does Yeats create mood in the lines? How would you describe the mood and atmosphere of the lines?

This exercise is designed to inspire you all do a lot with a little–only 2-4 lines, depending on which excerpt you choose.

[1] Yeats, William Butler. “The Second Coming.” Literature: A Portable Anthology, 4th. ed., edited by Janet Gardner, et al., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017, pp. 500.

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