Essay on No Second Troy By William Butler Yeats

Essay on No Second Troy By William Butler Yeats

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On the surface, William Butler Yeats’s poem No Second Troy, tells the narrative of a man questioning his unrequited loves morality and ideology. However, further reading of the poem gives the reader insight into Yeats’s own feelings towards Irish radical, Maud Gonne, a woman to whom he proposed on numerous occasions unsuccessfully. Gonne had always been more radical than Yeats within her efforts to secure Ireland’s independence from Britain in the first decades of the 20th century, but Yeats persisted in receiving her love, dedicating many of his poems to her, thus showing his obsession to the radical actress. The poem can be split into four rhetorical questions; first the speaker asks “why” he should blame her, for his own unhappiness; next he questions “what” else she could have done with her “noble” mind; following this, the speaker, seemingly speaking to himself, accepts that she is who she is and that cannot be changed, lastly the speaker questions whether there is anything else that could have been an outlet for her “fiery” temperament.

Initially, the poem can be viewed as a sonnet, however, true sonnets contain fourteen lines, in contrast to No Second Troy’s twelve, thus making it a douzaine. Like a sonnet, the rhyme scheme can divide the poem into three quatrains, with the lack of last rhyming couplet accounting for the lack of the last two lines. This coupled with a loose iambic pentameter gives the poem a controversial tone throughout, as it does not follow conventional ‘Love’ poem tradition. This transgression of rules can be seen to reflect the controversial nature of the Irish fight for independence, and even Gonne’s own controversial actions, such as her involvement in the 1916 Easter uprising.

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In conclusion, Yeats’s poem No Second Troy contains many formal features, such as a loose iambic pentameter and an untraditional form to convey the conflicting emotions of the speaker, and Yeats himself. In addition, the use of rhetorical questions throughout the poem heightens the confusion and internal uncertainty the speaker explicitly feels towards the woman. The coupling of form and language, to create a tone of confusion and conflict, allow a reader or listener to engage and empathise with the man’s feelings towards a woman who does not love him back. Although the poem requires knowledge of the Trojan War to contextualise the poem, Yeats uses simplistic language throughout, creating an emphasis on the feelings portrayed. This makes the poem easy to read and understand, giving a reader a clear insight into the speaker, and Yeats’s feelings towards the woman.

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