World War One fundamentally changed Europeans perspective on man. Before the war they believed that man was innately good, after it people were disenchanted with this vision of man. Both Thomas Sterns Eliot and William Butler Yeats keenly felt this disenchantment, and evinced it in their poetry. In addition to the war, Eliot and Yeats also saw the continuing turmoil in Europe, such as the Russian Revolution and the Irish Rebellions, as confirmation of their fear of man's nature and expanded their disillusionment in "The Waste Land" and "The Second Coming."
The poets shared more than a disbelief in the goodness of man's nature, they also both had religious experiences that colored their thoughts. Eliot was an atheist at the start of his life, and converted to Christianity, coming to believe in it fervently. Eliot also toyed with Buddhism during one stage of his writing "The Wasteland" (Southam 132). Yeats, on the other hand, grew up a practicing Christian and by the time he wrote "The Second Coming" was forming his own personal philosophy founded on an accumulation of everything "[he] had read, thought, experienced, and written over many years" (Harrison. 1). His philosophy, therefore, included Christianity as a factor in his life, but not nearly as significant a factor as in Eliot's life. Because of the importance of religion in both of their lives, Yeats and Eliot used many mythological and religious allusions in their poems. While both poets shared a disenchantment in the nature of man, their varying religions made them see different outcomes on mankind's horizon. Eliot saw the future as redeemable, while Yeats believed it could onl...
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Harrison, John. "What rough beast? Yeats, Nietzsche and historical rhetoric in 'The Second Coming.'
Leavis, F.R. "The Waste Land." T.S. Eliot: a Collection of Critical Essays.ed.
HughKenner. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1962. 104-109 "Rudyard Kipling and William Butler
Southam, B.C. A guide to the Selected Poems of T. S. Eliot. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1994.
UVA class notes, Dept of English, lit. intro into English from 1890 1989.
Vickery, John B. The Literary Impact of The Golden Bough. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973.
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